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Archives: June 2-8, 2008

Archives: June 2-8, 2008
Orioles ask for draft agreement from Indian River County for Dodgertown move
Posted June 5, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Baltimore Orioles would still prefer to stay in a refurbished Fort Lauderdale Stadium, but they are preparing a Plan B in case the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t relent on its demand for $1.3 million in annual rent for the property: they’ve asked Indian River County officials to prepare a specific draft lease for Dodgertown that will include an Orioles Florida State League team in Holman Stadium and a Ripken Baseball youth facility on the neglected former Dodgertown golf course. This doesn’t mean the Orioles are ready to pull the trigger on a move — indeed, this was described to us strictly as a Plan B move at the moment — but it does indicate the Orioles think there’s a decent chance the FAA will not decrease its rent demand. Elected Fort Lauderdale officials will be lobbying local and D.C. FAA officials for a reduction in rent in the coming weeks; negotiations for a Dodgertown move (which will be accompanied by a specific list of changes the Orioles want to see) will run at the same time. We’ve been told the Orioles have concluded that Fort Myers is out of the picture as a potential spring destination after a potential Red Sox move to Sarasota, but that’s not stopped the Red Sox from trying to talk the Orioles into taking over their City of Palms Park lease, beginning in 2011; if the Orioles were to take over the lease, it would save the Red Sox the money of buying it out. Still, you never know; discussions between the two teams have taken place as recently as this week.


College Baseball Digest relaunches
Posted June 5, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Names like Bibb Falk, Dick Siebert and Jeff Ledbetter may not mean much to most casual baseball fans, but in the world of college baseball they’re as big as Casey Stengel, Sparky Anderson and Joe Torre are to MLB fans. The world of college baseball has a culture all its own, and that world is the focus of the relaunched College Baseball Digest, the only Website devoted to the totality of the college game, past, present and future.
    “A big goal for this site was to avoid the fantasy-baseball angle you find in so much college-baseball coverage,” said publisher Kevin Reichard. “College baseball is a whole lot more than just a feeder system for pro baseball. It has a culture all its own, filled with rich traditions and a colorful cast. Players come and go, but the culture of college baseball remains a unique part of Americana – and it’s our goal to present regular and timely coverage of what makes the college game so special.”
    Focusing on community – in this case, the culture of college baseball – is a formula that works for August Publications Websites, as Ballpark Digest is recognized as the leader in its focus on the greater baseball world (The New York Times called it “indispensable” last weekend), and Spring Training Online is the leading Web resource covering America’s traditional spring pursuit.
    “There’s no doubt college sports inspires a lot of passion among its fans and communities, and this relaunch helps us address that passion,” Reichard said. “We’re also working on a redesign of our Northwoods League site and have a college-venues site on the planning boards as well.
    “The move to the new publishing platform from Infinity Pro Sports allows us to offer a lot of things, like multimedia, RSS feeds and video, that today’s sports fans expect,” Reichard added. “But one thing we’ll never forget is that baseball is a game of stories, and telling the stories of college baseball will always be our focus.”

Final pieces fall into place for Normal ballpark
Posted June 5, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Heartland Community College officially committed to spending $3.5 million on a new ballpark at a meeting last night, clearing the way for an ownership group led by Mike Veeck to begin planning and construction of a new $11 million ballpark for an independent Frontier League team. The college had been debating whether to build its own smaller ballpark and recreation complex or put the $3.5 million toward a pro ballpark and full use of it during the school year, and the decision was made to join in the pro project. The Veeck group will raise the rest of the money for the ballpark and the Frontier League franchise (though, notably, longtime Veeck partner Marv Goldklang is not taking an ownership stake), and the city of Normal will contribute infrastructure improvements. The ballpark is expected to open for the 2010 season.

MLB to literally roll out red carpet for 2008 All-Star Game
Posted June 5, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Major League Baseball announced a historic series of activities for its All-Star Summer that will treat fans to a one-of-a-kind All-Star experience as New York City and Yankee Stadium host the Midsummer Classic in the final season of the baseball cathedral.
    As a gesture to the majesty and history of Yankee Stadium, MLB will conduct a special pre-game on-field ceremony prior to the 79th MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday July 15th that will feature the largest gathering of baseball stars in history.
    More than 40 Hall of Famers including Hank Aaron, Yogi Berra, Bob Feller, Whitey Ford, Willie Mays, Cal Ripken Jr., and Frank Robinson, are scheduled to be celebrated for their accomplishments in the most historic building in sports during its farewell season. The pre-game ceremony will begin at 8:00 p.m. (EDT) and will air live on FOX.
    The Hall of Famers will also be honored at the All-Star Game Red Carpet Parade, where they will join the American League and National League All-Stars in the longest parade ever hosted by MLB.
    The Red Carpet, which will span more than 95,000 square feet, will start on 40th Street and Sixth Avenue and travel up Sixth Avenue to 58th Street and Sixth Avenue.

Mariners deal with uproar over same-sex kissing at Safeco Field
Posted June 5, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
A little diplomacy at the beginning of the process probably would have saved the Seattle Mariners from dealing with a hailstorm of bad publicity after an usher asked two women to stop kissing at Safeco Field during a recent game after he received a complaint from a nearby fan. The women say they weren’t doing anything other couple when on a date at ballgame, and the Mariners say they enforce the same standards for same-sex couples and straight couples at the ballpark when it comes to public displays of affection. Now, the only snarky comment we’ll make will be to point out one of the women involved was a contestant on MTV’s "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila," so it may be a case where there are some different interpretations of acceptable behavior going on here. In general, MLB has been pretty good about embracing the gay community, and teams have held gay-friendly events even after protests from right-wing activists. More from AP.

Council strikes down ballot measure designed to kill Rays ballpark
Posted June 5, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Today will be an important day in determining whether the Tampa Bay Rays receive support for a proposed $450-million waterfront ballpark on the Al Lang Field site in downtown St. Petersburg, as the St. Pete City Council is reviewing proposed referendum issues related to the project. The day started well for the Rays when the council rejected a proposed referendum question that would have asked voters whether to limit development at the Al Lang Field site in a manner far more restrictive than the city’s current zoning plan. The proposed referendum gained virtually no support from council members, who argued that making zoning and land-use issues a referendum issue was a dangerous precedent. This afternoon the council will debate another referendum issue related to the ballpark proposal.

Waukegan on the prowl for minor-league ball
Posted June 5, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Waukegan (Ill.) officials are directing staff to explore a new minor-league ballpark near the city’s downtown. The plan, as it’s been described to us by city employees, calls for a new ballpark on the south side of downtown; the city could contribute the land, but a team owner or developer would construct the ballpark on their own dime. Waukegan has looked at a new ballpark several times in the last decade, but so far nothing has come close to fruition. The question is: Is Chicago saturated with baseball? We know groups regularly pop up to bring baseball to the greater Chicago area, but let’s be honest: none of the Chicago-area minor-league teams, either independent or affiliated, are setting the world on fine; Kane County does well, but the Northern League and Frontier League teams in the area only do OK and have faced some serious issues in recent years. Can a Waukegan team do any better? One factor in its favor: We think there might be a pretty good shot at the city landing a Low Class A Midwest League franchise, as that circuit expects some shifts in upcoming years. We continue to hear the efforts are serious to bring a team to Dubuque, Iowa (with Clinton now the likeliest target for relocation), and we continue to hear the league will need to deal with the Beloit situation more sooner than later; there’s a facility there not close to meeting PBA guidelines and minority owners who want to bail.

Rays accelerate ballpark lobbying efforts, call in Selig
Posted June 4, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Amid concern that a proposed $450-million waterfront ballpark on the Al Lang Field site in downtown St. Petersburg for the Tampa Bay Rays is in serious trouble, team owners made a pitch to local business leaders for support and called in MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to pitch the St. Petersburg Times on the merits of a new facility. A Times poll showed serious opposition to the new facility, and local business leaders have been silent on how they view the proposal. There’s no doubt a new outdoor waterfront facility would be better than Tropicana Field both for fans (aesthetically speaking, the Trop isn’t the most inviting of places) and for the team. Selig’s pitch was pretty generic — cities with new ballparks love them, and attendance at the Trop is pretty low considering how good the team is — and so far there’s no threat of a move or anything like that. Still, the threat the proposal could go down in flames is real.

Cleveland, Kinston extend PDC
Posted June 4, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Kinston Indians (High Class A; Carolina League) and the Cleveland Indians have renewed their Player Development Contract, keeping the two clubs affiliated through the 2010 season. Cleveland and Kinston are currently enjoying their unprecedented 22nd year of affiliation.
    "Our relationship with the Kinston Indians is outstanding," said Ross Atkins, Cleveland’s Director of Player Development. "We are as happy as we could be; this relationship is one I see continuing for a long time."
    The affiliation between the Kinston and Cleveland Indians has enjoyed unprecedented success both on and off the diamond. Over the last fifteen complete seasons, Kinston has the highest winning percentage of any team in Minor League Baseball. Since the first year of affiliation in 1987 (21 complete seasons), the K-Tribe qualified for the Carolina League Playoffs 16 times, never missing the playoffs in back to back seasons. Currently, Kinston has made the Carolina League Playoffs seven straight years, the longest streak in Carolina League history. Kinston has won five Carolina League Championships and 11 Carolina League Southern Division Titles as a Cleveland affiliate. Over the last four complete seasons the K-Tribe has won 336 games, the most in all of Minor League Baseball.

How bad does Fort Lauderdale want spring training?
Posted June 4, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel opined today that Fort Lauderdale would do just fine without spring training and that the city shouldn’t make any special effort to retain the Baltimore Orioles. The status of the Birds came into play when the Federal Aviation Administration decided to charge the city $1.3 million annually for land used for Fort Lauderdale Stadium. While local politicos have scheduled meetings to attempt to overturn the FAA decision, it’s hard to say if they’ll succeed. Given the presence of the Marlins and spring training in Jupiter, it’s hard to discern a lot of passion for the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale — and given that other Florida cities may be hotter to lure the Orioles (Sarasota is actively seeking the Red Sox, Vero Beach already signed the Orioles to a Dodgertown option, and Auburndale officials have quietly been meeting with MLB teams about a potential site in that Polk County community), we’re guessing next spring will be the last for the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale.

Storms cause damage to Applebee’s Park
Posted June 4, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Lexington Legends (Low Class A; Sally League) are doing some damage control — literally. The severe thunderstorms that blew through Lexington Tuesday morning handed Applebee’s Park its first experience with significant storm damage in its history, and the team is working to mitigate the damage.
    The damaging winds and heavy rains left the outfield fence mangled and several of the offices flooded Tuesday morning. Despite the damage left by the severe storm, the staff at Applebee’s Park has helped in the clean-up efforts to make the stadium and field safe for tonight’s game against the Greensboro Grasshoppers at 7:05 p.m.
    “Our entire staff and our vendors responded immediately to what could have been a catastrophe,” said Lexington Legends President and CEO Alan Stein about the clean-up effort at the ballpark.

Canaries to hold baseball marathon
Posted June 4, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Sioux Falls Canaries (independent; American Association) are throwing an unprecedented marathon of baseball that will feature games on the field at Sioux Falls Stadium for 48 straight hours from 7 p.m. on Friday, July 18 until the stroke of 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 21. The entire baseball marathon will be broadcast by Sioux Falls Canaries broadcaster Matt Meola.
    The 48 Hours of Baseball will feature three American Association baseball games between the Sioux Falls Canaries and Grand Prairie AirHogs, as well as 14 other games featuring teams from around the Sioux Empire.
    The additional weekend entertainment will include live bands, video games tournaments, and additional Canaries fun around the clock.

Sarasota to study economic impact of spring training
Posted June 3, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Sarasota City Council has hired Conventions, Sports & Leisure International to study the economic impact if the Boston Red Sox were to move spring-training operations into that city. We’d be very surprised if the study didn’t show that Red Sox spring fans are a) unusually loyal, even when the team is down and b) willing to pay the inflated hotel prices Fort Myers hoteliers get away with each March. We’d also be surprised if the final report didn’t give some councilors who are on the fence some ammunition to follow their gut and make an offer to the Red Sox of $70 million or so. Given that developers are showing a high level of interest in the city — where the tax base is projected to shrink by $1.4 billion in coming years — if the Red Sox move is will also be a heavy factor in a decision to extend a rather generous economic offer. We continue to hear Fort Myers officials would love to keep the Red Sox but have little in the way of economic firepower at the moment. More from the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Counting down the final days of Tiger Stadium
Posted June 3, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy has missed a June 1 deadline to deposit $369,000 with the city of Detroit to save historic Tiger Stadium, so wrecking crews are scheduled to begin demolition this Friday. The group says it has some pledges and a potential $15 million in federal funds from Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), but so far the group has failed to raise enough money to keep the original Navin Stadium grandstand (which contains about 3,000 seats) and the playing field intact. The city will receive $300,000 if the entire ballpark is torn down (reflecting their portion of the proceeds of scrap metal) and nothing if it is partially town down. Now, missing the June 1 deadline might not be fatal — really, the group has a few more days to make something happen — but given the general antagonism shown by city officials toward any renovation of Tiger Stadium and the general apathy shown by the Detroit Tigers toward the project, it’s pretty clear the writing is on the wall.

Rays propose small changes in ballpark design
Posted June 3, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
While we would hesitate to characterize this as damage control after a poll released over the weekend showed considerable opposition to the project, the Tampa Bay Rays released a set of changes to the ballpark design to address concerns raised by city leaders. The biggest change was to change the configuration of the $450-million waterfront ballpark on the Al Lang Field site in downtown St. Petersburg to accommodate the continued running of the Honda Grand Prix; the original design would have prevented the popular event from running near the ballpark. Other changes, including the addition of an underground parking ramp and not using space near the Mahaffey Theater for office and retail space, was designed to minimize the impact on the popular performing-arts complex. Now, none of these changes will necessarily win over many of the folks opposing the project. But it should help some with city leaders and opinion leaders, and it will let the Rays tell everything they’re willing to be flexible to make the project work.

Gwinnett Braves unveil logo, will break ground today on new ballpark
Posted June 3, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Gwinnett Braves (Class AAA; International League) unveiled their logo yesterday, using a variation on a Sunday cap worn by parent Atlanta. Nothing too earth-shattering, but it does extend the Atlanta Braves brand to the northern suburbs. In other news, Gwinnett County officials and the Braves are holding a groundbreaking on the new ballpark today. Located in suburban Atlanta, the new $40-million ballpark is being designed by HKS and built by Barton Malow and is slated to open in April 2009.

Fort Lauderdale to fight FAA valuation of ballpark land
Posted June 3, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Fort Lauderdale political leaders say they’ll fight the decision by the Federal Aviation Administration to charge the city $1.3 million for the continued use of the Fort Lauderdale Stadium land as a spring-training site. The Baltimore Orioles want to renovate the ballpark and expand the spring-training facilities on land owned by the FAA. The FAA is willing to lease the land, but want to increase payments from the current revenue-sharing model (which yields yearly fees between $70,000 and $130,000) to what administrators say is the market value of the land, $1.3 million annually. It sounds like the Orioles would prefer to fight the valuation and work toward a renovated facility; the team has an option to move to Vero Beach’s Dodgertown as well.

Normal approves deal for Frontier League ballpark
Posted June 3, 2008 (