Archives: Aug. 4-10, 2008
Sounds, city at odds over Greer Stadium
Greer Stadium, the home of the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), is in dire need of upgrades to comply with ADA guidelines, but the city and the team are fighting over who should spring for the roughly $1 million in renovations. The city says the Sounds should be on the hook for the entire amount, and Sounds GM Glenn Yaeger says his team will chip in but not pay entirely for improvements to the city-owned facility. The larger issue, though, is the generally poor relationship between the Sounds and the city, a souring that was accelerated earlier this year when the Sounds went directly to the state legislature for ballpark funding over the objection of city officials. The city says the Sounds’ willingness to pay for ADA compliance is a test of the team’s commitment to the city, which is a tad high schoolish; if you truly loved me, you’d wear my homecoming ring. The real answer is a new ballpark, of course. More ominous perhaps is the quote from Mayor Karl Dean, once hailed as a friend of the team: “What I’ve asked from them, in terms of building a new stadium, would be that they come forward with a proposal that doesn’t start with us finding ways to give them tax breaks or government money, that starts with them telling us what they’re willing to invest and what they envision. They have never done that.” Nashville is still regarded by many as a great Triple-A market, but the conflicts here are so deep you have to start wondering whether a new ownership group with deeper pockets and a more conciliatory attitude isn’t the answer.
Dodgers sell Vero Beach franchise to Ripken Baseball
The Vero Beach Rays franchise — which played for a long time as the Vero Beach Dodgers — has been sold by the Los Angeles Dodgers to to Ripken Baseball, with the Tampa Bay Rays having a stake in the deal. With the Tampa Bay involvement, we expect the team to be shifted to Port Charlotte for the 2009 season. The deal is effectively immediately, with the Dodgers retaining management of the franchise through the end of the season. Though the sale was totally expected — we referred to it several times in past months, though the terms of the deal did shift over time — it’s still a blow for baseball fans in Vero Beach, who face a 2009 season without either the Dodgers or Florida State League baseball.
Deadline looms for new Tulsa ballpark deal
Today is the deadline for the city of Tulsa and the Tulsa Drillers (Class AA; Texas League) to finalize an agreement for a new downtown ballpark. The issue doesn’t appear to be funding — private funds have been raised — but a big issue right now is the implementation of a master plan and some land that a developer had targeted for investment. Basically, the city had a deal to negotiate with a developer over part of the ballpark parcel — a deal that predates the Drillers plan — and yesterday it was terminated. The developer is now complaining about an unfair negotiating process, but without a deal ever in place we’re not sure what legal options could be available. With the negotiations terminated, the Kaiser Foundation is now in a position to buy the ballpark land. More from Tulsa World.
Today’s video: NY-Penn League All-Star Game spot
Today’s video comes from the Tri-City ValleyCats, hosts of the 2008 NY-Penn League All-Star Game. This commercial promotes the event, slated for Aug. 19 at Joe Bruno Stadium. There are bound to be some future major leaguers on the field, and we’re sure the ValleyCats will put on a great show: the schedule of events, which includes an Eddie Money concert, is strong. We’d love to share your videos with the baseball community; just send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
New deal reached on Tiger Stadium preservation; Harwell museum a fallback
The Detroit Economic Development Corp. and the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy reached an agreement for the orderly renovation of the original Navin Field grandstand at Tiger Stadium. Besides containing some rigid deadlines for the conservancy to meet in terms of raising funds for the renovation, the deal also allows for a backup plan: a museum of longtime Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell’s memorabilia collection, should not enough money be raised and the entire grandstand razed. Given the preoccupation the city has right now with the jailing of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, we expect this deal to be approved by the entire city council as soon as today in September, giving all sides enough time to work out a deal.
Ghosts quadruple merchandise sales with new moniker
The Casper Ghosts (rookie; Pioneer League), the former Casper Rockies, have quadrupled merchandise sales with the team’s new name and logo, according to owner Kevin Haughian.
“We really wanted something that reached out not only to our great fan base in Wyoming but beyond,” Haughian said.
The team finished near the bottom in merchandise sales in all of minor league baseball in 2007 (as the Casper Rockies), but in 2008 it’s a very different story. Leading the way: the first glow-in-the-dark hat in baseball history, which comes in three different iterations. That’s led the team to implement other glow-in-the-dark merchandise.
Spikes offer challenge to fans: We win, you win
Nothing like a little humiliation of the front office to get fans going. The State College Spikes (short season; NY-Penn League) are throwing a We Win, You Win promotion tonight. If the Spikes win, fans can redeem their used ticket stubs for a $1 ticket to a Field Box, Bullpen Box or Outfield Bleacher seat to one of the Spikes’ games against the Staten Island Yankees on August 12, 13 or 14.
If the Spikes lose, General Manager Rick Janac and Director of Ticket Sales Chris Phillips will have a “Walk Off.” The pair will walk around the bases for one hour for every run the Spikes lose by. The ballpark will open to the fans at 11:00 a.m. and there will be an open mic for fans to heckle/cheer on the walkers. The Spikes will donate $1 for every fan in attendance on Saturday to the Breast Care Center at Mount Nittany Medical Center. Janec and Phillips had better have those walking shoes ready: Marcus Bankston (0-5, 6.69 ERA) goes for the 10-36 Spikes.
Chiefs set group, season-ticket sales records
The Peoria Chiefs (Low Class A; Midwest League) have announced that another ticket sales record broken by the franchise. The 2008 Chief sales staff has passed last season’s group and season ticket revenue record and plans to surpass last season’s record by five to seven percent by the end of the season.
“We had a great season last year, thanks in large part to the introduction of Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg as the 2007 Chiefs manager as well as to the work of our sales staff,” said Joe Wagoner, Vice President of Sales. “This year we can give a lot more of the credit to the hard work and dedication of our staff. Though Sandberg has returned as our manager for the 2008 season, we feel our salespeople deserve the recognition for getting the fans back to the stadium to see a good baseball game as well as a Hall of Famer.”
This year the Chiefs staff introduced new incentives for their renewal program. Ticket package holders who renewed their tickets early last fall and winter received various memorabilia items autographed by current and former Cubs stars. In 2007, the Chiefs surpassed the previous group and season ticket sales record by 15 percent.
Thunder offer their own Favre promotion: free season tix
Upon hearing the news that future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre had been traded to the New York Jets, the Trenton Thunder (Class AA; Eastern League) offered the former Green Bay Packer season tickets for the remainder of the 2008 Thunder season.
“This is a big transition for Brett and his family, and the Thunder wanted to ensure they would feel welcome in the Garden State from day one,” said Thunder Assistant General Manager Greg Coleman. The New York Jets play their home games in East Rutherford, N.J., which is approximately an hour drive from Trenton.
In the event the three-time MVP is unable to use his tickets because of his football commitments, the Thunder will donate Favre’s tickets to the charity of his choice.
MiLB, teams raise $100,000 for Iowa flood relief
Minor League Baseball representatives, on behalf of MiLB Charities, will present $25,000 checks to local officials in the Iowa cities of Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Davenport (Quad Cities) and Des Moines, beginning this Friday. The presentations to these four Minor League cities affected by the recent floods will take place at each club’s ballpark before a home game.
“Minor League Baseball is pleased to be able to participate in some small way in the recovery of the Iowa communities so hard hit by the 2008 floods,” said Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner. “These particular communities have served as welcoming hosts for Minor League Baseball for many years and, as a member of baseball’s extended family, we are most concerned with their recovery and a return to normalcy, as soon as possible. Our hearts and prayers go out to them as they battle back, and we offer our help to lighten their burden.”
MiLB Charities, a tax exempt, 501(c)(3) charitable organization affiliated with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL), originally pledged $50,000 to aid the Iowa flood victims. Member leagues and clubs then came to the aid of their fellow Minor League Baseball brethren by sending donations to MiLB Charities for dispersal to the Iowa cities.
The schedule of check presentations, including the recipient of the $25,000 in each city, is as follows: August 8, Cedar Rapids, The Kernels Foundation; August 9, Burlington, the City of Burlington; August 11, Quad Cities, Unsinkable Spirit Fund; August 12, Des Moines, City of Des Moines Parks & Recreation Department.
“The innovative campus setting, with its contemporary southwestern desert architecture, offers the best in training facilities for two of Major League Baseball’s most storied teams as well as a destination location for the entire community,” said Mo Stein, FAIA, FACHA, principal-in-charge at HKS.
“The site, organized around a central connecting path and lake, hosts two stadium entries – one at home plate and a more prominent entry at center field,” he said. “The stadium concourse is open with views into the stadium as well as broad walkways. It is a pedestrian experience, much like the entire site.”
Located on a 141-acre site with a three-acre lake, the stadium has the capacity to host 13,000 fans. It includes more than 118,000 square feet of major and minor league clubhouses as well as four major league practice fields, eight minor league practice fields, and two practice infields. Each team has a replica major league field to emulate their home stadium. More here, including an additional rendering.
Will schedule problems doom Sally/Midwest shift?
Our inbox/phone line was buzzing yesterday after a proposed schedule from MiLB for a 14-team South Atlantic League was released to team owners, and it indicated a high level of dissatisfaction with how the league would work if the Lake County Captains and a new Bowling Green team were to leave for the Midwest League. Basically, the issues revolve around the need for regular five-game series and homestands lasting 10 games or more. In addition, a number of waivers would be required because many road trips would violate the 500-mile rule, and the plan would increase the number of times the Northern Division teams play one another (31 times; the informal limit had been 24) while at the same time veer from guidelines concerning weekend dates. In general, five-game series aren’t very popular among operators, and neither are long road trips. This is a plan pushed by the Cleveland Indians to shift Lake County from the Sally League to the Midwest League, but the consequences are ending up to be more extensive than just the move of two teams: there was already a lot of grumbling about the plan from Midwest League owners (it was a prime topic at the All-Star Game), and if the plan garners more opposition in the Sally League, there’s a distinct chance it could be rejected by owners in either league. UPDATE: A sample schedule has been sent out to Midwest League owners. It, too, contains five-game series and 10-game homestands and roadtrips.
Seats from Shea priced at $869 per pair
The city of New York and the New York Mets will be selling seats from Shea Stadium for $869 a pair, considerably more than the $500 price memorabilia experts expected. Season-ticket holders will get first crack at the seats, available in orange (field-level), blue (loge), green (mezzanine) or red (upper deck) at the Mets website, with a sale to the general public starting Aug. 25. The pricing is the highest we’ve seen: the Cards charged $450 for a pair of seats at Busch Stadium II. The Mets are donating their share of the proceeds to the Mets Foundation. No word on what the Yankees and the city will be charging for Yankee Stadium seats; we’d be surprised if it was below $1,500 for a pair, given the aggressive pricing for Shea Stadium seats.
O-Royals walk away from negotiations for new downtown ballpark
Alan Stein, president of the Omaha Royals (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), says he has shut down negotiations to play at a new downtown Omaha ballpark and will pursue other options, including possible moves outside the market. The team has already had talks with representatives from suburban Sarpy County about a new ballpark there, and the O-Royals have received permission to explore a move to suburban Houston and Vancouver as well. Following a meeting with MECA President and Chief Executive Officer Roger Dixon, Stein said the city has negotiated with the team in good faith but there are still some issues that have not yet been resolved. The decision to explore other potential options and a home for the Triple-A franchise was made to adhere to a strict timeline that is based on the eventual demise of Rosenblatt Stadium.
“We have to do what is best for the Omaha Royals, our fans and our shareholders. And while we continue to keep all options open, including the College World Series Stadium in downtown Omaha, we need to explore, more aggressively, other opportunities,” Stein said. “We are still looking at other communities, both inside and outside the Greater Omaha area, that are interested in being the new home to the Royals. But as I’ve said before we would very much like to keep a professional baseball team that is affiliated with Major League baseball in the metro-area.”
Pendulum Studio snares Normal ballpark design deal
Posted Aug. 5, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
A new Kansas City architectural practice, Pendulum Studio, has been awarded a $12-million ballpark to be built on 22 acres of the Heartland Community College campus in Normal, Illinois. While the name of the firm is new, the principals — Jonathan Cole and Devan Case — are well-known in the sports architecture world, given their experience over the years with HOK Sport, HNTB, 360 Architecture and BNIM Architects.
The new facility will be home to the Heartland College baseball team as well as a new independent Frontier League team owned by Normal Professional Baseball Club LLC, led by veteran baseball operator Mike Veeck. The multi-sport complex has been designed to accommodate baseball, soccer, football and concerts, distinguishing itself as one of the most flexible facilities in the region. The project will consist of two phases, the main playing field and practice fields will be ready for collegiate play March 2009. The remainder of the facility will be ready for professional baseball May 2010. More here.
Initial renderings released for College World Series ballpark
Three architecture firms will begin their own road to Omaha after having been selected in June by Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey to design the new Omaha Baseball Stadium, the future home for the College World Series.
Led by Omaha-based HDR, Inc. as architects and engineers of record, the team also includes nationally recognized ballpark designers Populous as design architect and DLR Group as associate architect.
“This is a tremendous project for the community to continue its legacy as the home of the College World Series,” noted Bruce Carpenter, AIA, HDR project principal. “By creating this vibrant new environment, the experience for both fans and athletes will be enhanced for many generations to come.”
HDR and Populous have been working together on the project since November 2007, assisting the Mayor’s select committee with pre-design services including studies for the renovation of the existing Rosenblatt Stadium, the evaluation of eight potential new stadium sites, and programming and conceptual design of the current new stadium option. HDR brings an intimate knowledge of the Omaha landscape, having been a fixture in Omaha architecture for more than 90 years. DLR Group has designed more than 40 ballparks, and Populous has designed more than 150 ballparks across the country.
PETA names the most veggie-friendly ballparks in the minors
It used to be hard to find an alternative to meat products at a ballpark, but these days most teams offer something of interest to vegetarians. Recognizing this, PETA has released its yearly awards to the most vegetarian-friendly ballparks in the minor leagues. Leading the list is MerchantsAuto.com Stadium, the home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Class AA; Eastern League), where you can find grilled veggie burgers, vegetarian baked beans, veggie wraps, garden salad, grilled veggie sandwiches, grilled portobello burgers (available on request and cooked to order: veggie burgers, veggie sausages and veggie dogs. Rounding out the PETA top-ten list: Durham Bulls Athletic Park, PGE Park, McCoy Stadium, Cheney Stadium, AutoZone Park, Ripken Stadium, Frontier Field, Harry Grove Stadium and Appalachian Power Park.
Will two teams shift from Cal League to Carolina League?
Baseball America is reporting that Bakersfield and High Desert will be leaving the Cal League and shifting to the Carolina League. That’s a story several sources have peddled us in recent weeks, and one we’ve passed on reporting, as we’ve not been totally confident about the veracity of the claims. True, there’s a lot of wishful thinking here, and it allows the Cal League to deal with the issue of what to do with Bakersfield. But we’re really doubtful about where Baseball America says the teams will end up: Richmond and Fayetteville. First, we can’t believe Richmond will go from a Class AAA market to a High A market, especially when there are Class AA Eastern League owners eager to explore the market. Richmond is just too big — the population of Richmond proper is around 192,000, and that’s not counting any of the surrounding communities. That’s almost twice the size of Erie, Pa., and more than five times the size of Norwich. Second, we think it’s highly, highly doubtful Fayetteville will go for affiliated ball after being burned in the past with the likes of the Cape Fear Crocs. Darrell and Lew Handelsman have put down some pretty firm roots at Riddle Stadium and have a lease at the ballpark through 2013 — a lease we can’t see Darrell giving up without a fight. And the Fayetteville city officials we talked with say they have absolutely no stomach for putting money into a new ballpark after the Handelsmans came in and spent their own money on fixing up Riddle Stadium. (That’s one side effect of the rise of summer-collegiate ball: decent markets like Fayetteville, Columbia, Madison and Wilmington, N.C. are not as eager to explore pitches from affiliated teams as they were in the past because the summer-collegiate teams have established some deep roots.) Would some owners and commissioners like to see the shift? Absolutely. Is it likely to happen? Right now we’d put it at 50-50 — but not in the scenario envisioned by Baseball America. We hear Columbia, S.C. is a much more likely destination for a team than Fayetteville (it was a market targeted by the Sally League in recent years) — but you still have the problem of a Coastal Plain League team holding the lease to the ballpark, and it’s a stretch given the geography of the league.
Fallout continues over Dayton/Peoria brawl
You’ll all recall the unfortunate bench-clearing brawl between the Peoria Chiefs and Dayton Dragons on July 24, and late last week Midwest League President George Spelius handed down his punishments to both teams. Seven Chiefs players and interim manager Carmelo Martinez have been suspended for a combined 98 games with a total of $4,600 in fines. Starting pitcher Julio Castillo, no longer on the Chiefs active roster after being charged with felonious assault in Ohio’s Montgomery County, lead the way with a 60-game suspension that extends into next year. He was also fined $1,000. Outfielders Brandon Guyer and Cliff Andersen, infielder Jovan Rosa, pitchers Steve Vento and Audy Santana and catcher Mario Mercedes were each fined $150 and suspended for three games. The suspensions started Friday night against South Bend and will be staggered over the next week. Martinez, the Cubs’ Latin American Field Coordinator, was fined $1,500 and suspended for 20 games. He was filling in as Chiefs manager for the three-game series while Ryne Sandberg was in Cooperstown, N.Y. for the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. In addition to the individual punishments, the remaining Chiefs players were fined a lump sum of $1,200 for leaving their positions in violation of the On-Field Behavior. Dayton had eight players suspended three games each for their roles in the incident, and each were also fined. In addition, manager Donnie Scott was suspended three games and fined while the rest of the players were fined for leaving the dugout.
We’re not entirely sure how much this hurts minor-league baseball. Brawls are a relatively rare occurrence in the game: sure, you’ll see posturing in games after a brushback pitch, but dugout-clearing melees don’t happen very often. The real concern here — and the reason for much angst from Joe McEacharn and Branch Rickey III, we are guessing — is that a fan was injured. What happens on the field in terms of conflict historically hasn’t affected attendance, but if fans start to be wary of showing up to the ballpark because of the possibility of injury relating to on-field actions, then there’s cause for worry. But if this ends up being a one-time incident where the punishments are deemed to be sufficiently severe — and between the suspensions and the ongoing legal actions, we suspect they are — then Minor League Baseball will be fine.
Sadly, the incident overshadowed a pretty significant event in Chiefs and Midwest League history: Peoria and Kane County attracted 32,103 fans to Wrigley Field last week for the first minor-league game in that ballpark’s august history. It’s believed to be the second-biggest attendance tally in Class A history, surpassed only by a 1981 Cal League game played at Jack Murphy Stadium during the MLB players’ strike. Still, the Wrigley Field tally was big enough to set a Midwest League attendance record. More on that game from the Chicago Tribune.
Today’s videos: Gary Coleman signs one-game deal with Madison Mallards
We have the first celebrity signing on the summer-collegiate front, as the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League attracted plenty of media attention last week with the signing of former child star Gary Coleman to a one-game contract. Coleman indeed showed up to Warner Park to sign the contract and lead off in the subsequent game. In the first video, Coleman — who first hit the national scene in the Different Strokes sitcom — signs the contract, while in the second he steps to the plate, with a surprising result.