The rookie Pioneer League and short-season A Northwest League begin play on June 18, with the short-season A NY-Penn League beginning play on June 19. Meanwhile, the rookie Appalachian League launches on June 23.
There are a few stories we’ll be watching at this level this season. First, we have the West Virginia Bears (short season A; NY-Penn League) beginning play at a new Morgantown ballpark. Our Zach Spedden will be reporting from there once their launch their home schedule. Second, the Pulaski Yankees will be playing under a new parent (the New York Yankees) at an upgraded Calfee Park. Third, we have new owners for the Williamsport Crosscutters: Peter Freund and investors purchased the team from Geneva Cubs Baseball, headed by Paul Velte. Fourth, we have new owners for the Boise Hawks: Jeff Eiseman and Chris Schoen of Agon Sports and Entertainment.
We also have new owners for the venerable Billings Mustangs, as Main Street Baseball (led by Dave Heller and Bob Herrfeldt) now controls the team. We’ll be out at Dehler Park on Opening Night to check things out; Billings is a great market, and we expect great things from the new owners.
One last story we’ll be following: the continued rise of the Vancouver Canadians. Regular readers know we’ve been fans of Nat Bailey Stadium over the years, but chances are pretty good we wouldn’t recognize it these days. Between the changes to the grandstand and the exterior (with murals from Jennifer Ettinger) and the addition of new outfield seating, there have been lots of upgrades over the years. The key has been keeping the charm of the old Capilano Stadium (which opened in 1951) while giving fans what they expect for today’s sports dollar. We’ve already covered this year’s big upgrade to the Nat: the hey ‘yall Porch in left field, a sponsored group seating area that should provide plenty of great views of the playing field. But there are smaller improvements as well, including new bleachers down the left-field line, new bullpens, new home-run fences and new food items
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