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Archives: Sept. 17-23, 2008

Archives: Sept. 17-23, 2008
Wilder: Best place for new Richmond ballpark may not be Boulevard
Posted Sept. 23, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Richmond Mayor Doug Wilder threw a wild card into the ballpark deliberations by saying the Boulevard — the area where The Diamond, the former home of the Richmond Braves (Class AAA; International League), is located, an area slated for redevelopment — may not be the best place for a new ballpark. In a way, that’s not a surprise — the Robert Bobb group that includes Peter Kirk said as much during our most recent interview — but the way Wilder is going about the whole business of baseball in Richmond is a little odd. For starters, he made his comments about the new ballpark during a surprise and unannounced visit to the City Council last night. He also said two groups had approached the city to negotiate for a new ballpark on the Double-A and Triple-A levels, but we think he was a little inaccurate in his terminology: the Peter Kirk group has pitched independent Atlantic League baseball as being on a Triple-A level. Hence the reference. We’ve reported in the past the Double-A group being interested in the market is the Bowie BaySox (Class AA; Eastern League) group led by Ken Young, who also owns the Norfolk Tides (Class AAA; International League), the Albuquerque Isotopes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and the Frederick Keys (High Class A; Carolina League).


New owners step forward in Nashua
Posted Sept. 23, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
A new ownership group is stepping forward to buy the Nashua Pride (independent; Can-Am Association), but one possible impediment is the lack of a new lease at historic Holman Stadium. The group wants to add up to 25 non-Pride events to the mix (including military all-star baseball and entertainment events), and a new lease is required. It doesn’t sound like anyone with the city is actually against the idea, but there is a deadline of sorts: the Can-Am League is meeting next week and would like a firm commitment from the new Pride ownership group so a 2009 schedule can be released. More from the Nashua Telegraph.

51s owner: We need a new ballpark or else
Posted Sept. 23, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Aside from a poor location, inaccessible design and cramped facilities for players, coaches and front-office personnel, there’s really nothing wrong with Cashman Field, home of the Las Vegas 51s (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). Oh, wait: take away the location, design and facilities, and there’s nothing left but a parking lot. The owners of the 51s, now saddled with the unmarketable Toronto Blue Jays as a parent, say they’ll need a decision on a new ballpark in the next six months — or else they’ll look for a new home. The dream of GM Don Logan is a new downtown ballpark by 2011, after the lease to Cashman Field expires at the end of the 2010 season. But we’re not sure the city government has any intention of playing ball on a new ballpark: Mayor Oscar Goodman’s dream of major-league sports in his cities seems to have died, and his attention span doesn’t extend to the 51s. And we just don’t pushing the idea of a minor-league park that can be expanded to a major-league park is such a good idea: to be blunt, our idea of an idea MLB venue in Vegas does not include a trip downtown, as much as we love Binion’s and the Four Queens. Don Logan is obviously working hard toward a new facility, but it’s not clear anyone’s listening. Given his background, Goodman obviously knows a thing or two about hardball tactics, and maybe it’s time for Logan to throw the switch on the nuclear option and start talking with cities that may be interested in a free and clear PCL franchise.

Mets make it official with Buffalo; Houston signs affiliation deal with Lancaster; Rangers to Hickory; Seattle goes with Clinton; Thunder and Yankees to extend
Posted Sept. 22, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Here’s your affiliation news for the day. First, the Buffalo Bisons (Class AAA; International League) confirmed what we’ve been reporting for weeks: the signing of a two-year player development contract with the New York Mets. The Buffalo Bisons will be the New York Mets’ Triple-A affiliate for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
    "We, as an organization and as part of the Western New York baseball community, could not be happier today as we forge this new partnership with the New York Mets," said Bob Rich Jr., President and owner of the Buffalo Bisons. "The Mets are one of the most highly recognizable franchises in all of sports and have a well-established tradition of winning and excellence, which makes them a perfect fit for the Buffalo Bisons.
    Second, the Lancaster JetHawks have signed an agreement with the Houston Astros to be its High Class-A affiliate beginning with the 2009 season. The Astros will place an affiliate in the California League for the first time in over 40 years, while the JetHawks will partner with its fourth Major League organization in its history. The two organizations have signed an initial two-year agreement to place the affiliation in Lancaster and will automatically sign a two-year extension at the conclusion of the 2009 season with the JetHawks management team that will extend the affiliation through the 2012 season.
    "This is very exciting not only for the JetHawks but for the Antelope Valley, given the mutual involvement that both of our communities share in the aerospace industry," says JetHawks majority owner Peter Carfagna. "The Astros have proven to be strong partners with their other affiliates and in committing to this agreement, we have ensured continuity in our Major League relationship for several years to come as we look to build on the successes on and off the field that we have enjoyed the last several years."
    Third, the Texas Rangers will switch its Low-A affiliation to the Hickory Crawdads (Low Class A; Sally League.
    Fourth, the Clinton LumberKings announced today that they have signed a two-year player development contract with the Seattle Mariners.
    "The Mariners have been in the Midwest League for 16 years and they wanted to stay in the league and they wanted to come to Clinton, which was very flattering. They were very impressed with our facility for their players and staff – and that meant a great deal to our organization," said Ted Tornow, general manager of the LumberKings.
    Fifth, the Las Vegas 51s (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) called a press conference for today to announce their new parent: the Toronto Blue Jays.
   Finally, two press conferences to note. First, the Trenton Thunder (Class AA; Eastern League) have called a press conference for Wednesday to update folks on their affiliation status. Yankees GM Brian Cashman will be there. Second, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Low Class A; Midwest League) and Milwaukee Brewers have scheduled a presser at the Appleton ballpark to announce their upcoming nuptials.

Orioles close to signing deal to move spring operations to Dodgertown: local officials
Posted Sept. 22, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Indian River County and Vero Beach officials say they’re close to landing the Baltimore Orioles as a tenant for the now-vacated Dodgertown spring-training complex, and they expect an announcement by the end of this week or next week. Keep in mind they’ve been saying they’re close to a deal with the Orioles for several weeks now, so the real issue is if they’re really close. The deal, as it’s been described to us, involves the lease of the Dodgertown spring-training complex to the Orioles, and the redevelopment of the former golf course next to Dodgertown for use as a Ripken Baseball Academy. What we’ve also been told, however, is that the Orioles are waiting to see what happens with Boston and Fort Myers before making a final decision; indeed, the government entities only recently sent another updated proposal to the Baltimore brain trust. More from Spring Training Online.

Judge will not decide fate of Marlins ballpark financing plan until October
Posted Sept. 22, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Despite some anticipation that a long-awaited Florida Supreme Court decision would clear the way for public funding of a new Marlins ballpark, Miami Circuit Judge Jeri Beth Cohen said today she would withhold a final ruling until Oct. 3. Basically, the Florida Supreme Court, in another case, gave some guidance on what constitutes a public use in Florida law, and Cohen was expected to apply that standard to the Marlins situation. In a somewhat unusual setback for the Fish and Miami-Dade County, Cohen is mulling things over.

Curve, Spikes decide to take food operations inhouse
Posted Sept. 22, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Curve Baseball LP, which operates the Altoona Curve (Class AA; Eastern League) and State College Spikes (short season; NY-Penn League) in Central Pennsylvania, today announced that the Curve and Spikes will not renew their agreement with concessions operator Ovations Food Service for the 2009 season. The Curve and Spikes will manage their own food and beverage operations starting in 2009.
    "We constantly are looking at every aspect of our organization and felt that going in house with our concessions operation for the Curve and the Spikes will enable us to provide our fans with a better food and beverage experience," said Curve General Manager Todd Parnell. "By running our own food and beverage department, there will be better synergies with the rest of our departments, assuring fans of an even higher level of customer service and the community groups who work in the stands a more rewarding experience."

Tiger Stadium group announces fundraising events
Posted Sept. 22, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy is announcing a series of fundraising events in support of their mission to preserve, restore and revitalize the beloved Michigan & Trumbull ballpark venue that was home to the National Pastime from 1896 to 1999. The project to re-develop Tiger Stadium is an unprecedented opportunity for historic preservation that will enable Detroit to become a destination for baseball fans from across the country.
    Now that the City of Detroit has completed the demolition phase of the project — leaving intact the original Navin Field grandstand and playing grounds — the Conservancy seeks public support to help provide for the security of the site and other pre-development costs. To date, over $27,000 has been raised in online contributions toward the goal of reaching $69,000 in donations by mid-October.
    Long term funding for the $15M project is ongoing, with an expected $4M in federal appropriations earmarked for urban development and community outreach in Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood. Additionally, $5M in pledges in the form of state and local historic preservation and economic stimulus tax credits is targeted while the balance is sought in community grants from regional philanthropic foundations and investments from commercial developers. Most of the events are in the Detroit area, but there are other ways to support the cause as well. For more information, go to the conservancy website.

Bronx Bombers close down Yankee Stadium in style
Posted Sept. 22, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
It seems a little mean-spirited to point out that the current Yankee Stadium really isn’t the same House That Ruth Built thanks to an "unsympathetic renovation" in 1974-75, so let’s just go with the flow and congratulate the New York Yankees on a great night highlighting the team’s great run at the current ballpark site, distinctions between Yankee Stadium I and II be damned. It was great to see Yogi Berra — hailed by the New York Daily News as the greatest living Yankee (though one could make the same argument for Mr. October) — don the pinstripes and make one final appearance on a field where his teams and others snared 26 World Series championships, surely one of the best, if not the best, pedigrees in professional baseball. Babe Ruth’s daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, was on hand to throw out the first pitch. Andy Pettitte was the winning pitcher, and Mariano Rivera scored the save. The perfect scenario for Yankees fans, of course, would have been the pair winning and saving the seventh game of the World Series, but this was a pretty good finale nevertheless. Mike Lupica reviews all the history made at Yankee Stadium. Derek Jeter shows a lot of class in leading his team around the bases for one last jog after the game and commenting why Yankee Stadium was such a special place. It was a night both for average fans and celebrities, including Val Kilmer and Richard Gere. Fans are saddened to see the old place close down; they probably should realize the current ballpark isn’t the same as the original ballpark. Monument Park was a hot draw this week; it will make the transition to the new ballpark. Lost in the shuffle: despite fielding a mediocre team, the Yankees drew 4,298,543 fans this season, a record. Next up: tearing down Yankee Stadium and selling the urinals. More from the Boston Globe and The New York Times. Let’s not forget Yankee Stadium was the home for more than just the Yankees; before the 1974-1975 renovation the place was home to the NFL’s New York Giants as well.
    Meanwhile, the funding sources for the new Yankee Stadium continue to come under scrutiny. We’re not going to detail them here — and there’s a large bit of partisanship from all involved — but you can read this article to learn more about Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s crusade against tax-exempt bonds and allegedly dubious land valuations.

White Sox propose Tucson youth academy in exchange for move to Phoenix
Posted Sept. 22, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
In an effort to break their lease for Tucson Electric Park and move spring training operations to a new ballpark in Glendale, the Chicago White Sox have proposed instituting a year-round youth baseball tournament facility and youth academy at the expense of the White Sox and run by Major League Baseball. The White Sox would pay to upgrade existing playing fields and adding four more to the Tucson Electric Park complex. The youth academy would be centered on local youth and their development, focusing on lower-income and minority kids, given them training and guidance at no cost. The expanded facility would then be poised to snare more baseball tournaments year-round. There’s a lot at stake here: the loss of the White Sox would allow the Rockies and Diamondbacks to get out of their Tucson leases, and we’d expect them both to shift spring-training operations to Phoenix. More from Spring Training Online.

Lee County: Let’s bring in a third spring-training team
Posted Sept. 22, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
There’s the very real chance Lee County and Fort Myers will lose the Boston Red Sox as a tenant, but don’t say county commissioners don’t think big: they want to bring in a third team along with the BoSox and the Minnesota Twins. That would put four teams in the general region (the Tampa Bay Rays are moving spring-training operations to nearby Port Charlotte next year). It is an interesting strategy: while the Red Sox inch closer to a Sarasota move (both sides have exchanged terms for a move; Sarasota County is slated to make a counteroffer this week). At this point it’s all wishful thinking: there doesn’t seem to be enough money to building the Red Sox a new facility, never mind the money to build a facility for two. More from Spring Training Online.

Nats snare Chiefs; Marlins sign up with Zephyrs; Blue Jays left with 51s
Posted Sept. 21, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The affiliate dance at the AAA level is now done, with the Washington Nationals joining forces with the Syracuse Chiefs (Class AAA; International League), the Florida Marlins signing up with the New Orleans Zephyrs (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and the Toronto Blue Jays left with the Las Vegas 51s (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), although there’s been no official announcement yet. The marriage of the Nats and the Chiefs came after some impressive lobbying on the part of the Nats: given the alternatives, the best choice for the Nats clearly was the Chiefs, and they set out to land the deal, with Stan Kasten, Mark Lerner and Jim Bowden making the trip to Syracuse the first day possible. The Marlins, we are told, was never truly in the running: the team never sent a delegation on the level of the Nats (Brian Chattin, director of player development for the Marlins, who lacked the authority to make any commitments on the part of the team, showed up for a meet and greet). And while we’ve been told by insiders there was sentiment among some in the Chiefs front office to work things out with the Blue Jays, the complete refusal by the Toronto front office to engage in any meaningful discussions led to the decision to go with the Nats. (And there’s no doubt the Syracuse front office would have been heavily criticized by many in the community, who ripped Toronto for sending losing teams to Syracuse. Interesting stat: the Nats’ top farm team last year, the Columbus Clippers went 69-73 — the same as the Chiefs.) The teams signed a two-year PDC. More from

City Council approves trust for a new Drillers ballpark
Posted Sept. 19, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
In the last major decision needed before construction begins, the Tulsa City Council unanimously (9-0) approved the creation of the Tulsa Stadium Trust. The trust will own and manage a new ballpark for the Tulsa Drillers (Class AA; Texas League).
    "We want to thank the council for voting unanimously to approve the trust, and we thank the members for their hard work in producing a document that will work for all parties," said Drillers President Chuck Lamson. "The Drillers are very pleased that this vote makes a downtown ballpark a reality. We look forward to being a part of the exciting revitalization of downtown by providing fun, family entertainment."
    The new park will be located directly west of the historic Greenwood District and will be adjacent to the Brady and Blue Dome entertainment districts. It is scheduled to open with the 2010 baseball season.

Avalanche, Red Sox announce affiliation
Posted Sept. 19, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
No surprise: The Boston Red Sox are switching their High Class-A affiliation to the Salem Avalanche of the Carolina League. Why isn’t it a surprise? Because the Red Sox bought the franchise earlier this year. The Red Sox replace the Houston Astros as the Avs’ parent.
    "This is a historic day for baseball fans in Salem, Roanoke and across Southwest Virginia," said Salem General Manager, John Katz. "We look forward to bringing Red Sox baseball back to the Roanoke Valley, and continuing the proud tradition of professional baseball in Salem."
    "Salem is an ideal fit for the Boston Red Sox," said Red Sox Director of Player Development, Mike Hazen. "The playing surface is one of the best in the minor leagues, and the area’s commitment to baseball has created a great environment for developing top-notch players, both on and off the field. We are committed to bringing championship-caliber baseball, and a team which the fans can take great pride in, to the Roanoke Valley."

Indians to Columbus; Dodgers to Chattanooga; Marlins to Suns; Brewers stick with Huntsville
Posted Sept. 18, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
We have many affiliate decisions to report today. First, the Jacksonville Suns (Class AA; Southern League) signed an affiliation deal with the Florida Marlins, a move that makes logistical sense for both outfits. Second, the Chattanooga Lookouts (Class AA; Southern League) signed an affiliation deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Third, the Milwaukee Brewers renewed their deal with the Huntsville Stars (Class AA; Southern League). On the Double-A level, that leaves the Giants, Reds and the Yankees still unsigned. We’