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Carolina League to expand in 2012? Probably not

Carolina LeagueCarolina League President John Hopkins says he wants to see his league expand by two teams for the 2012 season to accommodate a return of the circuit to Kinston — statements that will probably be well-received in that city as the K-Tribe embarks on a lame-duck season, but we’re not sure his sentiments are shared by the rest of Minor League Baseball

Hopkins made his comments to a local Kinston newspaper:

“That would be my first choice,” Hopkins said, referring to the prospect of a new Kinston club joining the league right away, “but that’s still a big if.”

The possibility of expanding the league from eight teams to 10 has been discussed for about nine years, Hopkins said. Whether that happens will depend upon whether two suitable facilities are available and two major league affiliates from elsewhere in the country want to relocate….

“The discussions have been off, primarily because there have been no destination territories available that would work,” he said. “Whether or not (the Indians’ sale) would change that, it’s not something that I can say. But the more we speculate about something, the less likely it is to happen.”

A proposed move of two California League teams to the Carolina League several years ago collapsed under the weight of the deal, and we’ve been told flat-out by insiders that a similar shift isn’t even close to being on the table. And while there are two potential markets for a Carolina League team — Kinston and Wilmington, N.C. — we don’t see two Cal League teams ready to make a move; if anything the Cal League has addressed its franchise issues with the sale of the High Desert Mavericks to Main Street Baseball and is in better shape now than when franchise shifts were discussed. We give Hopkins high marks for optimism, though.

Similarly, we can’t see two Florida State League teams available for a shift.

And selling one Carolina League to buy another doesn’t make much economic sense for Kinston Indians owner Cam McRae unless the new team was bought at a low price. One advantage to the sale: it does clean up the ownership situation, as the K-Tribe has 70 or so owners. While we’re sure McRae is working hard to bring baseball back to Grainger Stadium, we’re not sure a return to the Carolina League is in order; given the size of the market it would make more sense to go summer collegiate with the Coastal Plain League.

RELATED STORIES: Carolina to Pensacola, Kinston to Zebulon in 2012

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