Top Menu

Archives: Aug. 25-Sept. 1, 2008

Archives: Aug. 25-Sept. 1, 2008
Tucson Toros revived as Golden Baseball League team
Posted Sept. 1, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Jay Zucker, who sold the Tucson Sidewinders (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) to new owners who are moving the team to Reno, is staying in baseball as the owner of the Tucson Toros, who will enter the independent Golden Baseball League next season. In addition, the Toros will play at Hi Corbett Field, the historic former home of the original Toros and the current spring-training home of the Colorado Rockies. Moving to the more intimate and centrally located Hi Corbett Field is a good move: it will allow the team to actually draw neighborhood traffic (the relatively remote location of Tucson Electric Park meant fans needed to make an effort to see the Sidewinders), and gives the new team both a new beginning and a link to the original PCL Toros, who played at Hi Corbett between 1969 and 1997.
    With the addition of Tucson, it does look like the Reno Silver Sox won’t be part of the league next season — not a surprise, as being up against a new PCL team would be financial suicide — and we wouldn’t be surprised if the league adds a team or two or perhaps subtracts one or two: both St. George and Orange County are averaging fewer than 900 fans a game.
    On the flip side, the Sidewinders ended on a low note, as most fans didn’t really care about the team leaving town. Greg Hansen bemoans the lack of passion for the franchise.


Paints likely to leave Frontier League; owners looking at launching wood-bat league
Posted Sept. 1, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The owners of the Chillicothe Paints (independent; Frontier League) are planning to leave the world of independent baseball and launch their own summer-collegiate league. The future of the Paints in the Frontier League has tenuous this season: the team draws only 1,302 a game — dead last in the indy circuit — but the owners seem to do a better job of managing the facility, hosting many events unrelated to Paints baseball. There are some economic advantages to summer-collegiate ball — you can take away player payroll and workers-comp (depending on the state; some states, like Wisconsin, do require workers-comp insurance to be paid on summer-collegiate-league players) off the ledger books. But you can also take some revenue off, as summer-collegiate-league seasons are much shorter than indy leagues. And forming a league is a formidable challenge, to say the least. But there are probably a few other cities that should look at shifting from indy ball to summer-collegiate ball, and we expect more movement in this direction in the next few years.

Hurricane Gustav forces Mobile to cancel final games of season
Posted Sept. 1, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Hurricane Gustav — which ended up not wreaking as much havoc as meteorologists and the Republication National Committee anticipated — caused the Mobile BayBears (Class AA; Southern League) to scrap their final two games of the season against the Birmingham Barons. The Barons and BayBears closed the season on Saturday night, with the Barons returning to Birmingham. The team is waiting for the playoffs to start on Sept. 4.

Bowling Green, Rays extend PDC
Posted Sept. 1, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Bowling Green Pro Baseball — the relocated Columbus Catfish (Low Class A; Sally League) and the Tampa Bay Rays announced a two-year extension of their Player Development Contract (PDC) that will make the franchise the Rays’ Class-A affiliate through 2010. Bowling Green Pro Baseball, which is in the midst of a name-the-team contest, will play its first home game at a new ballpark on Friday, April 17, 2009. "We are very pleased to extend our partnership with the Tampa Bay Rays, an exciting young team that coincides with our exciting new beginning in Bowling Green," said DSF Sports President Rick Brenner. "We look forward to competing for South Atlantic League championships as a Tampa Bay affiliate and having their young players represent us proudly in the community."

Vero Beach D-Rays end season with a whimper; FSL out of town
Posted Sept. 1, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The last game for the Vero Beach Devil Rays (High Class A; Florida State League) never actually took place, as the team’s finale in Dodgertown was scrubbed because of rain and poor field conditions. The D-Rays, for many years an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, will be playing in Charlotte County next season, leaving the future of pro baseball in Vero Beach somewhat in doubt. We’re not anticipating a team there for 2009 — with the Orioles still in flux regarding a spring-training venue and efforts to land a FSL team on hold — but you never know what will happen in 2010. 

Stabile suspends Pride operations, looks for buyer
Posted Aug. 29, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
At the end of the day, there just wasn’t fan interest to sustain an independent Can-Am Association franchise in Nashua, so owner John Stabile has announced the organization will not return for the 2009 season under his ownership.
    "I’m sorry that we weren’t able to succeed in accomplishing what our goal was; which was keeping baseball here in Nashua," said Stabile in a closed meeting on Thursday. "We took it as long as we could, worked long and hard… we did everything we could do. The Nashua Pride as you know it today won’t be here next year."
    Stabile announced that he has approached a firm to assist in possibly locating a municipality which may have interest in purchasing the Nashua Pride. Stabile has said that he is also entertaining the idea of taking a voluntary leave of absence from the Can-Am League for a year while retaining the franchise, which would allow the opportunity to search for an interested party to purchase the team.
    Stabile cited severe revenue loss as the foremost reason for his regretful decision. The Pride finished the year last in the Can-Am League in attendance for the second consecutive season, averaging approximately 1,500 fans per home game.
    "I appreciate and enjoyed all the people who came here for the last three years," said Stabile. "We had great fun, we had a ball… I thank everyone for their help, all out staff, and the people who helped us."
    The franchise began play in the independent Atlantic League in 1998 and then shifted to the Can-Am Association. Historic Holman Stadium was the former home to affiliated baseball in the community; it is where GM Buzzie Bavasi welcomed Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe as they began their road to the majors.

Price for new Gwinnett County rises by almost 50 percent
Posted Aug. 29, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The price of a new Gwinnett County (Ga.) ballpark for the relocated Richmond Braves (Class AAA; International League) is now estimated at $59 million — about $19 million more than the original cost estimate of $40 million. We are talking about apples and oranges here, though: much of the increase comes from the addition of new features, including a wraparound concourse, a canopy and other upgrades. More from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

International League to set attendance record tonight; Triple A may be next
Posted Aug. 29, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Unless something goes terribly wrong the Triple-A International League will establish a new single-season attendance record sometime tonight. The League enters play this evening with a total attendance this season of 6,805,260 — roughly 10,000 shy of the circuit’s all-time standard of 6,815,633 set in 2002.
    The IL is averaging over 7,220 fans per opening in this the 125th season of operation, an increase of over 3.5 percent from 2007. The league, which in 1998 became the first minor league to exceed an attendance of 5 million and then 6 million in a single season (with a four-team expansion), will likely finish the 2008 campaign with an attendance of over 7 million fans for the first time ever.
    Combined with the IL’s counterpart, the Pacific Coast League, Triple-A Baseball may also be primed for a record attendance in 2008. To this point the two leagues have combined for a total attendance of 13,776,962, leaving the classification just 487,182 short of last year’s all-time high of 14,264,144.
    One of the most significant factors in the International League’s success at the gate this season has been the addition of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in Allentown. Playing in the brand-new Coca-Cola Park, the IronPigs have emerged as one of the league’s strongest draws, welcoming nearly 600,000 fans in their first season in the IL.
    Next season the League will debut two more new facilities. Huntington Park opens in Columbus, replacing 77-year-old Cooper Stadium as the home of the Columbus Clippers. Gwinnett County will welcome the relocated affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. All indications are the attendance record established in 2008 will be short lived as 2009 may very well be another record-breaking season for the International League.

    In other attendance news, for the fifth straight year the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Class AA; Eastern League) set a single-season, franchise record by welcoming 373,227 fans into Stadium during the 2008 regular season. Last night’s standing-room-only crowd of 6,689, the 15th standing-room-only crowd of the season, put the Fisher Cats over the top, breaking the 2007 record of 371,710 fans. The record-setting number does not even take into account the 8,762 fans who attended the Northeast Delta Dental Eastern League All-Star Game on Wednesday, July 16, the largest crowd in Stadium history.

Bevos, Padres extend PDC
Posted Aug. 29, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and the San Diego Padres have signed a two-year Player Development Contract (PDC) extension through the 2010 season.
    The announcement was made jointly by Beavers President and General Manager Merritt Paulson and Padres Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Grady Fuson.
    "We are very pleased to announce our PDC extension with San Diego," Paulson said. "The Padres have been fabulous partners, and we look forward to another two great years."
    The extension continues a partnership that was established in 2001, Portland’s first year back in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
    "The Padres are excited about our continued agreement with the Portland Beavers," Fuson said. "With Merritt Paulson and his staff, we know we have a great partner in the Portland franchise. The player and staff experience in Portland is a vital part of the growth process to the major leagues and is a perfect fit for the Padres organization."

HOK, sport group go separate ways
Posted Aug. 28, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Board of HOK Group, Inc. and managers of HOK Sports Facilities, LLC have jointly agreed to transfer ownership of HOK Sport Venue Event to leaders of that practice. HOK Group shareholders approved the transaction at an August 28 meeting.
    HOK Sport Venue Event has been a part of HOK Group for 25 years and has operated independently as a wholly owned subsidiary since 2000. It’s the leading designer of ballparks both in minor-league and major-league baseball, with three new HOK-designed ballparks opening this season (in Lehigh Valley, Springdale and Washington. D.C.) and several more next season.
    "It’s exciting because it lets us pursue the staff that we want to pursue and incentivize them the way we want," said Joe Spear, senior principal of HOK Sport Venue Event. "We’re thinking about ways we can attract people and keep people excited about the future of the firm."
    The parting of ways, Spear added, has been amicable and relatively painless. As a wholly owned subsidiary, HOK Sport Venue Event has had its own organizational structure, which should minimize the impact on employees and customers. "The bones of the organization are there, and until we think of ways of doing things differently, we’ll keep on going the way we are."
    The new firm — which will take on a new name and brand once the buyout is complete (which is expected by the end of the year) — will have 500 employees worldwide. Spear estimates that the new firm will be the fifth-largest in the nation, and the largest firm specializing in sports facilities and venues.

River Bandits ask fans to choose next round of ballpark improvements
Posted Aug. 28, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Here’s a great way to increase fan interest in a ballpark: ask them to pick what happens in the next round of ballpark improvements. That’s what the Quad Cities River Bandits (Low Class A; Midwest League) are doing. The two-phase process will ask fans to help select the next major upgrade for Modern Woodmen Park.
    "We want to hear from our fans," said team owner Dave Heller. "We look at this team and this ballpark as a public trust. The River Bandits belong to the people of the Quad Cities, and Modern Woodmen Park is our home. We put as much love and care into our home as our fans do into theirs. We are dedicated to continued improvement of the ballpark and we want our fans to be a part of that. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.”
    The first phase of the contest will begin tomorrow and run through Friday, September 19, giving fans the opportunity to submit their suggestions for the next ballpark improvement through or
    At the conclusion of the first phase, the River Bandits will narrow the suggestions down to six finalists. Fans will then have the opportunity to vote for their preferred ballpark improvement online at from Wednesday, September 24 through Wednesday, October 15. The winning entry will then be announced on Thursday, October 16.

Texas League draws 3-millionth fan for first time
Posted Aug. 28, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Talk about landmarks: Texas League attendance hit the three-million-fan mark for the first time in league history. The mark was reached when crowds totaling 19,265 attended games played in Arkansas, Frisco, Midland and Springfield, reaching the 3,009,488 figure. What’s amazing is that every team in the league is on pace or already exceeded last year’s attendance figures. Corpus Christi, Midland, Northwest Arkansas, San Antonio and Tulsa have already passed their season totals for last season. With a few home games remaining, Arkansas, Frisco and Springfield all are on track to do the same — which would be another league record. In fact, the Midland RockHounds established a new single season attendance mark in 2008, passing the record set in 2002, the year they opened their new park. Barring any bad weather, Arkansas is also on track to eclipse their single season mark, set last season when they opened Dickey-Stephens Park. In their inaugural season, Northwest Arkansas will draw approximately 240,000 more fans than they did in Wichita last season.

Omaha, Royals extend PDC through 2010
Posted Aug. 28, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Omaha Royals (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and the Kansas City Royals today formally announced the pair have extended their working agreement through the 2010 season. Omaha has been the Royals’ highest-level affiliate since both teams’ inaugural 1969 campaign. The relationship is currently the second-longest in Triple-A, trailing only the Atlanta Braves, who have had their top affiliate in Richmond since 1966.
    "We are very happy to be returning to Omaha for another two years," Royals Assistant General Manager/Scouting and Player Development J.J. Picollo said. "We have a long history and a great tradition there and feel that it is a great home for us. We appreciate the relationship with the ownership and feel that they are a first-class operation."
    "The Kansas City Royals are a first-class, professional organization which prides itself on quality player development," said Alan Stein, Omaha Royals President. "Kansas City General Manager Dayton Moore and his front office staff are putting together a young team on the rise and we want to be a part of that."

Phillies sell out again; set new record
Posted Aug. 28, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Speaking of attendance marks I: Tickets for tonight’s 7:05 p.m. Phillies vs. New York Mets game are sold out, according to John Weber, the Phillies’ Vice President, Sales & Ticket Operations. That gives the Phillies 45 sellouts in 68 dates this season, a new club record for most sellouts in a single season, breaking the previous record of 44 sold out games set in 2004. It helps to have a team in contention, of course; the Phillies are a fun team to watch, and seeing Jimmy Rollins in the midst of a pennant drive — with the team’s biggest rival in town — alone is worth the cost of a ticket.
    In other MLB attendance news, the Milwaukee Brewers this morning reached 3 million total tickets sold for the 2008 season, giving the team a chance to break the all-time attendance record. The Brewers currently have sold out 21 consecutive home games and have 37 sellouts on the season overall. Both marks are all-time highs for the franchise. Through 65 home games, the Brewers average attendance is 37,994. The team’s previous high for home attendance in one season was set last year at 2,869,144.

Sea Dogs on the verge of welcoming 6-millionth fan
Posted Aug. 28, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Speaking of attendance marks II: the Portland Sea Dogs (Class AA; Eastern League) expect to welcome the 6-millionth fan in franchise history tonight when the Sea Dogs host the New Britain Rock Cats at Hadlock Field. Entering tonight’s game, the Sea Dogs need 3,655 fans to reach the milestone.
    The 2008 season is the 15th season of play for the Sea Dogs. In the team’s first season in 1994, the Sea Dogs established a new Eastern League record in attendance as 375,197 fans made their way to Hadlock Field. Since that time the Sea Dogs have consistently drawn around 400,000 fans annually and rank among the attendance leaders each year in Double-A baseball. Last season the Sea Dogs averaged a franchise record 6,483 fans per game.
    Through 61 openings this season the Sea Dogs have drawn 376,152 fans, ranking second in the league averaging 6,166 fans per game.

Storm, Padres extend PDC
Posted Aug. 28, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Lake Elsinore Storm (High Class A; California League) and the San Diego Padres extended their PDC for four more years. "The Storm and the Padres have a wonderful relationship and we look forward to working together for many years to come," said Storm team President Dave Oster. "We are in the unique position of being so geographically close to our major league affiliate that the marketing of our teams and players go hand in hand. The Padres and their players have been a first-class organization both on the field and in our community which gives us no reason to look anywhere else."

Oaks, D-Backs extend PDC
Posted Aug. 28, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Visalia Oaks (High Class A; California League) and the Arizona Diamondbacks agreed to renew their Player Development Contract through 2010. The agreement, which hinged on the City of Visalia’s pledge to continue to bring the Oaks’ ballpark into compliance with MLB facility standards, represents a major victory for baseball in Visalia.
    "We are happy to have developed a good relationship in Visalia as a central part of our development system," said A.J. Hinch, Director of Player Development for the Diamondbacks. "We are encouraged about the renovation project, and we look forward to our future in Visalia.”
    The Oaks have worked with city officials and Diamondbacks personnel for several months in efforts to bring historic Recreation Park closer to compliance with professional baseball facility standards. The future renovations will continue a period of sustained improvement, which have included the new home clubhouse (2006), renovated visitors’ clubhouse (2007), new fog-misted party areas down the left-field line (2003-2008), new bullpens and improved lighting (2008), and, of course, the major expansion down the right-field line, which will be completed later this year.
    Oaks President Tom Seidler named geography as one of the primary reasons for the extension. "We are thrilled to continue as part of the Diamondbacks family," he said. "First, they’re a class organization with a stated and practiced commitment to their farm system. Second, they’re the best fit geographically; the fact that their Spring Training and Major League facilities are in Arizona, along with their frequent visits to the West Coast to face NL West rivals, allows fans in the Central Valley to stay connected with Oaks past, present & fu