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Archives: June 30-July 6, 2008

Archives: June 30-July 6, 2008

Oneonta Tigers sold
Posted July 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Miles Prentice, owner of the Huntsville Stars (Class AA; Southern League) and the Midland RockHounds (Class AA; Texas League), is buying the Oneonta Tigers (short season; NY-Penn League) from longtime owner Sam Nader and the rest of the investors in Oneonta Athletic Corp. The deal was announced yesterday by the 88-year-old Nader and is subject to approval from the NY-Penn League, MiLB and MLB. No terms were released. As part of the deal Prentice will keep the team in Oneonta through the 2010 season, but we can’t imagine he’ll be in a hurry to move it: he’s kept the Stars in Huntsville despite offers of new ballparks from other cities. The more immediate issue is whether Prentice will serve beer at Damaschke Field: under Nader and crew the Tigers have never sold beer at the ballpark, the only minor-league franchise to pass on that particular revenue stream. We’re guessing Prentice will have the taps ready to go next season. More from the Oneonta Daily Star.

Sarpy County hires consultant to work on new O-Royals ballpark
Posted July 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Convention Sports and Leisure International snared a $70,000 contract to consult with Sarpy County on a potential new ballpark for the Omaha Royals (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). The contract has CSI looking at the suitability of Sarpy County for baseball and how the county could finance a new facility, which would seat at least 9,000. The suburban Omaha county is growing and includes retail like Cabela’s, so we’re not talking about a location potentially in the sticks. One scenario to keep in mind: the consultants may come back with a recommendation that Sarpy County is better suited for a Class A team than a Class AAA team. More than one Midwest League owner at the recent All-Star Game asked us what we thought of Omaha as a Midwest League market. Meanwhile, MECA — the board running the new downtown ballpark for the College World Series — is expected to make a financial proposal to the owners of the O-Royals this week.

Demolition of Tiger Stadium begins
Posted July 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Demolition of historic Tiger Stadium began this week, as wrecking crews erected barricades and began taking down the longtime home of the Detroit Tigers. The current plan is for demolition to proceed in stages, keeping intact (for now) the grandstand. A conservancy group led by former Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell has until Aug. 1 to raise enough money to preserve the original grandstand, but it’s not looking good; it doesn’t look like Congress will come up with any funds (despite the efforts of Sen. Carl Levin), and passion for the project really hasn’t swept through Motown. More from the Detroit Free Press.

Bandits attendance up sharply
Posted July 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Despite some very bad weather forcing the team to play home games on the road, the Quad Cities River Bandits (Low Class A; Midwest League) has been one of the big turnaround stories in MiLB this season. Last night’s crowd of 5,221 pushed the season attendance to 97,715 in 31 dates, an average of 3,152. That puts the team well ahead of Wisconsin in attendance, in the middle of the Midwest League pack. And we’re sure the Tiki Village will draw even more fans through the turnstiles as the season progresses. More on the resurgence of the River Bandits from Quad Cities Online.

Final tally in Fort Wayne name-the-team contest: 2,574
Posted July 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
In just two weeks over 2,500 team names were submitted in the Fort Wayne Wizards "Re-Name the Team" contest. "We are thrilled with the response we’ve received from the fans," said GM Mike Nutter. "None of us knew what to expect when we launched the contest two weeks ago. We consider this an overwhelming success."  Team officials now face the daunting task of digging through the suggestions and pulling out the best of the best. They will take the next week to work their way through the submissions. The team plans to release up to ten names and allow the community to voice their opinion.

Cards to clean up Ballpark Village area
Posted July 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Under pressure from the city government, the St. Louis Cardinals will clean up the vacant lot formerly housing the previous Busch Stadium, an eyesore envision as the home of a future real-estate development, Ballpark Village. There’s still debris from the Busch Stadium demotion, as well as some footings from the ballpark, and a small pond has popped up. The pond will be drained, the debris will be removed and new fencing will be erected. The development of a Ballpark Village was a key part of the new Busch Stadium development, but tenants have been hard to find and some original tenants, like the Bowling Hall of Fame, have bailed on the project. More from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Renegades offer citizenship in new promotion
Posted July 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Hudson Valley Renegades (short season; NY-Penn League) held a "Born in The USA" promotion last night, giving one fan on the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. Four pre-selected fans competed in several on-field contests throughout the game, earning points for their performance in each event. At the end of the night the points were totaled with the overall points winner having his or her naturalization process paid for by the Hudson Valley Renegades. “We’re really excited about this,” Renegades General Manager Eben Yager said before the game. “We’re talking about potentially improving someone’s life forever in just one night. That’s what we’re all about here. I was born in Canada and when I turned 18, I had to go through the process of becoming a U.S. Citizen and now I’d like to be a part of helping someone else become a citizen of the greatest country in the world."

Bucks expect to be back in Riverfront Stadium July 11
Posted July 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The baseball team hit the hardest by Iowa flooding has been the Waterloo Bucks (summer collegiate; Northwoods League), who will have lost a quarter of their home schedule after high waters closed down Riverfront Stadium, damaging the team’s party deck and causing at least $100,000 of damage to the ballpark’s electrical system. The team has played in other Northwoods League ballparks and local high schools while waiting for waters to recede and cleanup to commence. The current target for being back at the ballpark: July 11.

Avon breaks ground on new Frontier League ballpark
Posted July 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Avon (Ohio) officials broke ground on a new ballpark for an independent Frontier League team and expect to have the ballpark open in time for the 2009 season. The new ballpark will seat 3,500 and cost $10.9 million, Matt Perry of National Sports Services signed a 15-year lease for the ballpark and pay $250,000 annually (retaining naming rights and assuming year-round maintenance responsibilities); Chicago businessman Steve Edelson will own the team. More from the Morning Journal.

Griffith pitches Topeka on charms of Northern League
Posted July 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Independent Northern League Commissioner Clark "Harold Hill" Griffith was in Topeka the other day, touting what wondrous things his league would bring to the Kansas community: 15 concerts a year, a league that includes a team in Burnsville, Minn. next season, and a great product that warrants a 5,000-seat ballpark. Well, Clark, you gotta know the territory, and we’re not sure what’s being promised matches the reality. For starters: As of two weeks ago Griffith was cold-calling potential investors in the Twin Cities area to put money down on the Burnsville team; we spoke to members of one group (who are currently restaurateurs and have interests in sports teams) who were not impressed and decided to pass. And the nature of the pitch strongly indicates there’s nothing close to enough investors to make a privately financed $25-million ballpark a reality for the 2009 season, leading us to seriously question whether the Northern League will be fielding a team in Burnsville next season. (Legal considerations may delay the project as well.) Next, we’re interested to hear more details on how the Northern League plans on scheduling 15 concerts a year in each of its ballparks; that’s pretty ambitious, but we’re not sure how realistic it is. Finally, the independent American Association has been working the Topeka area pretty well, and we’re guessing whoever brings in the most realistic financial plan will have the best shot at landing the territory — and Topeka just doesn’t strike us as a 5,000-seat market. All kidding aside, the Northern League faces some challenges that perhaps won’t be fixed by Topeka anyway: the six current teams are fairly strong if current attendance figures stay steady, but the geographic challenges of a six-team league stretching from Winnipeg to Gary, Indiana makes expansion a necessity, and adding Topeka — which is outside the league’s current footprint, albeit slightly — doesn’t solve that issue. American Association owners we talk with are adamantly against any notion of interleague play. And with Burnsville an increasingly iffy proposition and Waukesha a dead end (hell, in that Milwaukee suburb city officials are worrying that a 2,000-seat Northwoods League ballpark is too big), we don’t see the Northern League breaking out of its geographic straitjacket. Which is too bad, but maybe a fresh approach is in order. Stenographer’s notes from the Topeka Capital-Journal.

O-Royals accelerate talks with Sarpy County
Posted June 30, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Omaha Royals (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are in negotiations for a new 7,000-8,000-seat ballpark in suburban Sarpy County, as the team ownership continues to work out a plan for the future once Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium is torn down in favor of a new downtown Omaha ballpark for the College World Series. Now, loyal readers of Ballpark Digest should be well aware of Sarpy County, as this is the only media outlet anywhere to report on the potential of the team moving away from the city of Omaha proper (and, in fact, we took a few shots from the Omaha World-Herald at the time; funny how silent the paper is now). A move downtown is possible, but problematic, as the entity doing the negotiating for a new ballpark, MECA, has its hands tied as to how attractive a lease can be be for the Omaha Royals (a sweetheart lease is out of the question, apparently). O-Royals management and MECA officials are meeting today to discuss a potential lease; depending on what happens there Sarpy County may move ahead tomorrow with the hiring of a consultant to evaluate a ballpark project. We also hear the O-Royals have received permission to explore a move to two other markets: suburban Houston and Vancouver.

Rays withdraw controversial ballpark funding plan
Posted June 30, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Tampa Bay Rays have withdrawn a controversial proposal to build a $450-million waterfront ballpark on the Al Lang Field site in downtown St. Petersburg. The decision comes on the face of increasing public opinion against what was turning into a rather complicated funding plan to retire Tropicana Field debt and clear up funds for a new ballpark. Instead, a task force headed by Progress Energy head Jeff Lyash will be charged with scouting out the best location and funding method for a new ballpark, The victory may be pyrrhic for St. Pete residents, however; we’re guessing the Rays will use this as an occasion to scout out other locations in the Tampa-St. Pete area, and we know the folks in Hillsborough County are mighty keen on professional sports. Just sayin’. More from the Tampa Tribune.

Drillers face deadlines on new ballpark
Posted June 30, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Tulsa Drillers (Class AA; Texas League) are inching closer to a new downtown ballpark, but it may come down to the wire. We’re expecting an announcement next month about a 2010 opening, but there are a few hurdles before anything is announced: the city must renew a downtown assessment district by July 10 and come to a lease agreement with Drillers owner Chuck Lamson by July 15. Neither is necessarily a huge challenge (indeed, we’ve been told they’re closer to formalities than anything else), but the lawyers will inevitably have to weigh in. There’s a new location for the ballpark: an eight-acre site in the city’s Greenwood District, bounded by Interstate 244, Archer Street, Elgin Avenue and Greenwood Avenue. The new ballpark, with a design from HOK Sport (a rendering is shown below), will feature 6,200 seats, berm seating, 25 luxury boxes, picnic areas and a party deck. The $60 million ballpark will be funded with $30 million in donations, $25 million from a city assessment and $5 million from the Drillers. More from Tulsa World.

Judge removes himself from Braman case; Marlins ballpark trial delayed
Posted June 30, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
A court case involving a legal challenge to Florida Marlins ballpark funding from local auto dealer Norm Braman has been postponed after Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Pedro Echarte Jr. recused himself after discovering he’s a distant relative of one of the plaintiff’s attorneys. The trial will now proceed on July 1. Braman is charging the $515-million ballpark funding plan should be approved by voters. Meanwhile, in depositions local lawmakers never asked about the financial health of the Marlins before committing to a ballpark funding plan.

BayBears, Diamondbacks extend PDC
Posted June 30, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Mobile BayBears (Class AA; Southern League) and the Arizona Diamondbacks have announced a two-year extension on their affiliation, through the 2010 season. This season is the final year of the original agreement that the BayBears signed with Arizona when they became their Class AA affiliate in 2007.
    "Our first two years here have been great," said A.J. Hinch, Arizona’s director of player development. "Working with the front office and management group here has been great. We know our people are in good hands."
    "You can’t guarantee that we’re going to win a Southern League championship but the players who have come through here are quality players with a passion to excel and be promoted to ‘The Show,’" said BayBears President/COO Bill Shanahan. "That’s our goal here, to get them to ‘The Show,’ and that’s A.J.’s job, developing players."

Aeros, Indians extend PDC
Posted June 30, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Akron Aeros (Class AA; Eastern League) and the Cleveland Indians extended their Player Development Contract for the maximum length of four years, ensuring that Akron will continue as the Double-A affiliate of the Indians through the 2012 season.
    "This is obviously an exciting announcement, and it’s one that we are happy to release publicly today," Aeros General Manager Jeff Auman said. "The Indians player development staff is filled with quality personnel, and they are a pleasure to work with on every issue we are faced with on a daily basis. We are extremely proud to have been an Indians affiliate for 20 years and we look forward to continuing our relationship for many more seasons to come."
    The Aeros franchise first joined forces with Cleveland in 1989 when the club was still located in Canton. Since that inaugural season, more than 75 players have donned the purple and black before eventually making the Major Leagues, including All-Stars like Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, C.C. Sabathia and Manny Ramirez.
    "We could not be more excited about continuing our relationship with the Akron Aeros," said Cleveland Director of Player Development Ross Atkins, who himself spent parts of two seasons with the Aeros in 1998 and 1999. "The chance for us to have first-class resources in Double-A just 40 miles south of Cleveland is a separator for us. With the upgrade of the playing surface and the professionalism of Jeff Auman’s staff, we know our Double-A staff and players are in very good hands."

Grasshoppers, Marlins extend PDC
Posted June 30, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Greensboro Grasshoppers (Low Class A; Sally League) and the two-time World Series Champion Florida Marlins have extended their Player Development Contract through the end of the 2010 season.
    "We love being here. This is a great place," Marlins Vice President of Player Development and Scouting and Assistant General Manager Jim Fleming said during a recent visit to Greensboro. "The fans are amazing, Donald [Grasshoppers President and General Manager Donald Moore] and his staff have treated us tremendously and it’s been a great experience for us. To ensure that we remained here for another two years was a big deal."
    Greensboro has been the Single-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins since the 2003 season when the team was still known as the Bats; the Marlins are the only parent team the Grasshoppers have ever known. Since moving to NewBridge Bank Park in 2005 and changing their name, the Grasshoppers have seen 146 Florida Marlins prospects suit up.

Name-the-team contest ends today for Fort Wayne Wizards
Posted June 30, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The name-the-team contest for the Fort Wayne Wizards (Low Class A; Midwest League) ends today, as the team prepares a new identity to go along with a new home next season. "Suggestions have been steady for the last two weeks," said Michael Limmer, Wizards assistant general manager. "We want to hear from everyone that has a creative idea. We hope that people will take the time to submit their names before the deadline passes on Monday night." Once the open suggestion period comes to a close team officials and Minor League Baseball consultants will dig through all submissions to evaluate which names have the most potential. You can weigh in at

MiLB launches charities wing; will donate funds to Iowa flood victims
Posted June 30, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Minor League Baseball announced it has established MiLB Charities, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization affiliated with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL). Any donations to MiLB Charities will qualify as tax-deductible contributions.
    The first act for this newly created charitable arm of Minor League Baseball will be to donate $50,000 to the four Minor League cities in Iowa affected by the recent floods; Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Davenport (Quad Cities) and Des Moines.
    "Minor League Baseball is an American institution of grass roots, hometown baseball played out in cities and towns all throughout this country,” said Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner. “And nothing is more American than neighbor helping neighbor. As our friends and fellow fans in the Midwest struggle with the aftermath of the recent flooding, we are proud to participate in a nationwide campaign to ease their pain and hurry along their recovery.
    “Minor League Baseball fans everywhere empathize with all our friends and fellow fans in the Midwest. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them, and we will do all we can to help get