Well, the cat is out of the bag: The Houston Astros are looking at placing a High A team at a new Fayetteville ballpark, while the Texas Rangers are still eying a team in Kinston, as work progresses on moving two teams from the California League to the Carolina League.
Astros owner Jim Crane was in Fayetteville today to look at ballpark sites, in a move originally scheduled for last Monday (the trip was delayed due to flooding in Houston). And while the whole Cal to Carolina move for the High Desert Mavericks and Bakersfield Blaze franchises — as well as a new downtown Fayetteville ballpark, something we discussed in the past, as well as a potential Astros High-A farm team at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches — has been hush-hush, it’s out in the open now after Crane’s rather public visit to Fayetteville, per the Fayetteville Observer:
Astros owner Jim Crane had a private lunch at Luigi’s Italian Restaurant with two city officials and the county’s industrial recruiter. His visit was not publicized, but a Fayetteville Observer reporter interviewed him at the restaurant after receiving a tip.
Crane said he is here to have preliminary discussions and to scout the area.
“We just flew over to talk with local officials and look around and see what the possibility is getting a minor league stadium here,” Crane said.
He said he was hoping to have a stadium built by the 2018 season.
“There’s no movement yet,” Crane said. “Just discussions.”
Indeed: nothing is close to being completed, either on the Astros’ end, the Rangers’ end, and certainly not from either the Cal League or the Carolina League. (Still, the Rangers were pretty open about talking with Kinston officials about Grainger Stadium upgrades as part of a new lease — a lease already approved by the Kinston City Council.) A 2018 opening may or not make sense; that’s the middle of a two-year affiliation deal. So this isn’t an automatic deal, as lots of things need to happen before any teams switch leagues. But with Crane in town scouting out ballpark sites, there is some public movement.