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Lake Monsters not likely to move, despite reports to contrary

The Vermont Lake Monsters play in one of the roughest facilities in professional baseball, but don't look for the team to go anywhere, despite some reports to the contrary.

Centennial Field, the home of the Vermont Lake Monsters (short season; NY-Penn League), isn't one of the sterling facilities in pro baseball. It doesn't meet PBA standards, and it's an orphan in many ways: its owner, the University of Vermont, had dropped baseball as a college sport and has no inventive as a landlord to make any improvements at all to the ballpark either for players or fans.

With Centennial Field not meeting standards, it's natural to target the team as potentially relocating. Indeed, that seems to be the case in this Burlington Free Press article, which outlines the many reasons why the team should move or play in a renovated facility. And we're guessing someone close to the Lake Monsters was instrumental in leaking a report on the condition of the ballpark to the paper.

But there's a lot of bluster here. No one in baseball is forcing teams playing in substandard ballparks to move anywhere; plenty of teams received waivers in the last go-around and will probably receive another for the future. The bottom line is that despite some sensationalistic and ill-informed press to the contrary the Lake Monsters aren't going anywhere. There's one big reason why a move won't happen: there's no place for the team to go.

In the natural pecking order in the NY-Penn League, the Rich family — owner of the Jamestown Jammers — has first crack at any move; that's why we've been reporting that if the Connecticut Defenders (Class AA; Eastern League) end up in Richmond (something we peg at having a 50-50 chance of happening if MiLB doesn't underestimate how well Peter Kirk's proposal for a renovation of The Diamond is playing in that city) Jamestown would have first crack at Norwich, which may be a crappy Eastern League market but potentially a very good short-season market. 

But having Jamestown as an open market doesn't mean Vermont would be a candidate to move there; Russell Diethrick Park may be a better facility than Centennial Field, but Jamestown isn't nearly as good a market as Burlington. Not even close. And while there are some better markets in the NY-Penn League footprint (Elmira springs to mind), there's no good markets with anything approaching a pro-level facility.

So if there's no place for the Lake Monsters to go, the next step would be to find a way to fix up Centennial Field or work for a new facility. As we said, the Lake Monsters have literally no leverage: their landlord is perfectly happy with the team a tenant but has made it plain there's no money for any ballpark imrpovements. Burlington officials have said they're not interested in putting any money into a college ballpark or a new pro one. And while there's been a pitch made to state officials, they've made it clear budget issues make the issue a non-starter. At the end of the day, pro baseball will need to be content with the condition of Centennial Field, because there are no alternatives on the horizon.

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