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Archives: Sept. 9-15, 2008

Archives: Sept. 9-15, 2008
New for 2010: Target Field
Posted Sept. 15, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Minnesota Twins announced the sale of naming rights to their new downtown ballpark to hometown Target Corp., with the end result being Target Field. (Which, of course, will sit next to Target Center, and the two will be connected by Target Plaza.) No terms were released, though the deal is set for 25 years.
    "The Minnesota Twins are extremely pleased to announce our partnership with Target Corporation, which includes the naming of our new home, Target Field," said Twins owner Jim Pohlad. "Our state is lucky to have many businesses that provide outstanding support and commitment to our community but none do it better than Minnesota-based Target. We are honored to be their partner."
    "We are excited about our partnership with the Minnesota Twins and the opportunity to continue our long history of community support. We are confident that Twins fans and community residents will enjoy this wonderful addition to our area for many years to come," said Gregg Steinhafel, President and CEO of Target.
    We are, of course, excited about shopping for peanuts at the downtown Minneapolis Target store (located in the downtown Minneapolis Target headquarters building) and walking past Target Center onto Target Plaza before entering Target Field.


Cardinals, Redbirds extend PDC through 2012
Posted Sept. 15, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The St. Louis Cardinals and Memphis Redbirds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) have extended their player development contract through 2012. The Redbirds have been a Cardinals affiliate since their inception in 1998. Memphis finished their 2008 Pacific Coast League campaign 75-67 with a win over Oklahoma on the final day of the season. The Cardinals also announced two exhibition games next spring at AutoZone Park. The Cards and ‘Birds will battle on April 3-4.
    In other affiliate news, Seattle extended its PDCs with the Pulaski Mariners (rookie; Appalachian League) and the Everett AquaSox (short season; Northwest League) through 2010. Plus, the Minnesota Twins and the Fort Myers Miracle (High Class A; Florida State League) reupped through 2010 — a move that wasn’t as automatic as many assumed. It also looks like we have our first change on desk: the Milwaukee Brewers will be moving their Low-A affiliation to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest League, though nothing is official, of course.

Diamondbacks benefit from ballpark improvements
Posted Sept. 15, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The lesson — one we can’t repeat enough — is the need for baseball teams to constantly offer fans new and better experiences. Take the great example of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who spent little on Chase Field for six years (just $500,000 annually) and then realized a falloff in fan interest was due to stagnation at the ballpark. The response: $25 million in improvements in the last two years. Attendance is back up, though it has a long way to go before reaching the level it was at when the team first arrived in town. On the team’s wish list: a museum behind center field, a left-field picnic area, modified suites, an enhanced main entry plaza and a new Diamondbacks candy shop. More on the changes from the Arizona Republic.

BIRCO approval down to the wire; deadline is tomorrow
Posted Sept. 14, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The battle over BIRCO — the Baseball Internet Rights Company that would force MiLB teams to cast their digital lot with MLB AM — is coming to a head, with a deadline for approving coming tomorrow, Sept. 15. To say the battle is heated is underestimating things: owners are complaining about the heavy-handed manner the N.A. is working to force approval (a level of unprecedented lobbying that may be backfiring with some owners). Basically, the proposal would force MiLB to steer their digital content to BAM — requiring them to shut down their own websites in the process — and be treated as an extension of MLB. On another level, it’s a rather blatant attempt by MLB to use minor-league baseball as a marketing tool, and it’s not the first attempt to MLB and BAM to coopt minor-league baseball, though the first attempt was not nearly this intense. By our count, there are still over 45 unsigned teams, including a significant number of AAA teams (at least eight). The main objection: the lack of an exit strategy for teams should the new arrangement not work out, and the perceived lack of control over a BAM-run web presence. And there’s plenty of animosity toward BAM in the minor-league world, mostly from owners who complain about BAM’s inability to successfully market a wide range of hot and timely merchandise. The bigger issue, of course, is the N.A.’s perceived weakness in dealing with MLB: at a time when minor-league baseball has never been healthier as an independent industry, many owners complain off the record (and anonymously, so take it as you will) about President Pat O’Conner and especially Executive VP and COO Tim Purpura (a former MLB GM with Houston) as working more for MLB interests than their own in this and recent attempts to reconfigure the minor leagues — and as-yet-unannounced attempts to reconfigure higher-level minors in the future.

New for 2009: Parkview Field
Posted Sept. 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Naming rights for the new Fort Wayne ballpark have been sold to Parkview Health for $3 million ($300,000 annually for 10 years, with half going to the city’ Capital Maintenance and Improvement Fund). The ballpark, slated to open April 16, will be known as Parkview Field. "We are excited about our long-term partnership with Parkview," said Jason Freier, CEO of Hardball Capital, owner of the Wizards. "There are tremendous opportunities for us to work together to make Harrison Square a success and to further Parkview’s mission in the community. We would like to thank Parkview for this show of support."
    The deal extends to more than just the naming-rights purchase. Parkview and the soon-to-be-renamed Fort Wayne Wizards will also be collaborating on numerous health-related initiatives at Parkview Field. They include health and fitness education and activities, blood drives, cholesterol, blood pressure and other health screenings, tobacco cessation, trauma prevention, bicycle safety, and other safety education programs, as well as healthy food choices developed by Parkview nutritionists and the Parkview Heart Institute.

Rockin’ in Schaumburg: Flyers unveil live at-bat music
Posted Sept. 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
To the best of our knowledge, the Schaumburg Flyers (independent; Northern League) featured a first in minor-league baseball: offering live at-bat music at their August 31 game at Alexian Field. The live at-bat music was performed by local band Turning Down Today and featured classic rock and contemporary hits such as “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne and “Dr. Feelgood” by Motley Crue.
    "The Flyers are always thinking of fun and new promotions to entertain our fans," says Flyers GM Ben Burke. "We’re pleased to have been the first minor-league team to bring a new twist to the familiar concept of player walk-up music." Video follows.

Will fans flock to new Portland ballpark?
Posted Sept. 10, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Portland baseball fans don’t cotton well to change when it comes to ballparks: since 1901 various Portland teams have mainly played in two venues: Vaughn Street and PGE Park (formerly Multnomah Stadium and Civic Stadium). So the notion of a new ballpark for the Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) is a little bit of a change for Bevos fans; why, yes, perhaps we would like a new ballpark, as we’ve not had one for 100 years! There are some pretty good reasons to consider a new ballpark: Despite a great location (off downtown Portland, easily accessible via car and public transport, surrounded by cool bars and restaurants), PGE Park is basically a football stadium (and former dog-racing track, to boot) converts to a baseball facility, with too many seats and not enough great seating. That’s why the plan floated by Bevos owner Merritt Paulson to convert PGE Park to a soccer-only facility (pending the potential arrival of an MLS team, of course) and build a new Beavers ballpark has fans intrigued, though noncommittal. One of the big appeals of PGE Park is the urban location, and Paulson is proposing a ballpark in the city, though an area (the Lents area) lacking in charm and atmosphere. Portland is a pretty good baseball town, and perhaps a new ballpark is needed to push the market to the next level.

Legal issues cloud future of United League Baseball
Posted Sept. 10, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The future of the independent United League Baseball is up in the air, as three lawsuits from former league and team owners muddy the waters for next season and beyond. The first comes from former league owners John Bryant and Byron Pierce, who obtained a temporary restraining order on August 28 in Dallas County District Court against United Sports Equities, the corporate entity controlling the indy circuit, and Brad Wendt. The restraining order forces the league to continue operations pending a further court case, barring any dissolution of assets, the sale of teams or the league, or a merger with another league. It’s no secret the league faced some economic issues this past season, scrapping the last three games of the season Laredo, Harlingen and Alexandria and trimming the salary cap as well.
    In the temporary restraining order, the court issued the injunction based on a finding that the independent Golden Baseball League was on the verge of purchasing the assets of United League Baseball. It also confirms our earlier reporting that a motivating factor for Bryant and Pierce was their wish to preserve the value of a franchise they retained for North Central Texas (including Dallas County) when they sold the league to Brad Wendt. The deal with the Golden Baseball League would have transferred ownership of San Angelo and Amarillo to the Golden League; the restraining order notes that the operations of Laredo, Harlingen, Alexandria and Edinburg have ceased.
    Complicating things is a second lawsuit from Harlan Bruha, the founder and former owner of the San Angelo franchise, who retained a substantial (49 percent) stake in the franchise when the Central League team moved to United League. This lawsuit asks for the United League to return the franchise to Bruha because money was siphoned from the San Angelo franchise to prop up United League Baseball franchises, while failing to make scheduled payments to Bruha. Where he would go with it is another issue: the American Association doesn’t seem too eager to take in San Angelo (though it does make some geographic sense, with its proximity to Dallas/Fort Worth), and given the difference of scale between ULB and the American Association, expansion fees might be an issue. Still, Amarillo and San Angelo were the only two ULB teams to draw more than 100,000 fans this season, and we’re guessing those two franchises carried a lot of financial weight for the entire league.
There are actually three lawsuits in play here. An earlier lawsuit from former ULB owner Byron Pierce in March 2007 called for Wendt to make good on promised payments connected to his buyout of the league. Wendt apparently stopped making payments on a settlement of that lawsuit, forcing Pierce to go back to court to collect the judgment. The order to keep the league intact originally stems from Pierce’s lawsuit, as there’s no way for him to collect on the judgment if the league is liquidated.

Judge OKs new Marlins ballpark, ending Braman lawsuit
Posted Sept. 9, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Jeri Beth Cohen ruled today that government funding of a new Florida Marlins ballpark serves a public purpose, clearing the way for Miami-Dade County and the Marlins to declare victory in the lawsuit brought by local auto dealer Norm Braman challenging the funding formula. (One issue still remaining — whether community-redevelopment funds can go toward the ballpark — is moot, as the county says no community redevelopment funds are currently part of the mix.) With the victory, planning for the new retractable-roof ballpark can continue, and county commissioners will be asked to give final approval to the project, which will be built on the Orange Bowl site.

Yankees close to huge Bank of America sponsorship
Posted Sept. 9, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The New York Yankees are proving you can have your cake and eat it too, as the team is close to a huge sponsorship deal with Bank of America. The Yankees declared early on that naming rights to the new Yankee Stadium would not sold, but the sponsorship deal with Bank of America gives the team naming-rights revenue — an average of $20 million annually, from what we’ve heard — without actually having to give up the naming rights. The sponsorship would give Bank of America prime signage at the ballpark, both on exterior signage and within the ballpark.

Should new SWB Yankees ballpark be a downtown facility?
Posted Sept. 9, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Though a new ballpark for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (Class AAA; International League) is far from a done deal, that’s not stopping local politicians from stepping forward and positioning their cities as the best home for a facility. Right now PNC Field is located in Moosic, strategically located right off the freeway linking Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. It’s a good location; scenic and easily accessible. There’s also enough land there for a new ballpark, as well as associated development — the Holy Grail of economic activity for Mandalay, who owns the SWB Yankees with the New York Yankees. But Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty, says his downtown would be a perfect location for a ballpark — and we can’t disagree, given the hotels, mass transit and freeway access already in place. There are some political reasons to keep the ballpark in the neutral ground of Moosic (particularly where county funding is involved), so we expect the debate to rage on. More from the Citizens Voice.

BoSox set consecutive-sellout record
Posted Sept. 9, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
It probably was a foregone conclusion that the Boston Red Sox would set the record for consecutive sellouts, and it happened yesterday afternoon when yet another sellout crowd turned up at Fenway Park to see the Red Sox defeat the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-0, to crawl within a half-game of first place in the AL East. It was the 456th consecutive sellout for the Red Sox, which began on May 15, 2003. The Cleveland Indians previously had the record, set at Jacobs Field between 1995 and 2001. Unless something dramatically goes wrong in Red Sox Nation, we don’t expect the string to end any time soon.

Hudson Valley, Rays extend PDC
Posted Sept. 9, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Hudson Valley Renegades (short season; NY-Penn League) have extended their Player Development contract with the Tampa Bay Rays through the 2010 season. The Renegades have been the only short-season A team for the Tampa Bay Rays. "The Rays have built one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball," said General Manager Eben Yager. "We are extremely proud and excited to be affiliated with such a classy organization as the Tampa Bay Rays."

G-Braves announce April 17 opening for new ballpark
Posted Sept. 9, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The new Gwinnett County ballpark for the Gwinnett Braves (Class AAA; International League) will open on April 17, with the G-Braves hosting the Norfolk Tides. From all accounts construction work is proceeding smoothly on the new facility.

Plaque marks site of West Side Grounds in Chicago
Posted Sept. 9, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Our friends at the Way Out in Left Field Society had a big weekend, dedicating a plaque to the former site of West Side Grounds at the University of Illinois Medical Center. (The center is located south of the United Center, across the Eisenhower Expressway.) West Side Grounds opened in 1893 as the home of the Chicago Colts, the precursors to the Cubs. It wasn’t a large park — seating 16,000 in 1915, the last year the Cubs were there — but it goes down in history as the last ballpark housing the World Champion Cubs. (The Cubs have never won a World Series while playing at Wrigley Field.)