Baseball is just getting underway in many markets, as the Minor League Baseball short season leagues are getting their 2018 campaigns started. We highlight some of the developments that will take place this year in the Appalachian League, New York-Penn League, Northwest League, and Pioneer League with our short season preview.
Three of the four short season leagues covered in this preview have already started their seasons, with the Appalachian League slated to kick off its campaign on Tuesday. Across the four leagues there will be some interesting developments to watch, including ballpark-related stories, new branding, and promotions.
While there are no new ballparks opening in any of the short season leagues this year, there are still a few facility-related storylines to watch. Kindrick Legion Field is hosting its final year for the Helena Brewers (Rookie; Pioneer League), who will relocate to Colorado Springs after this season. The ballpark, which opened in 1932 and is the Pioneer League’s oldest active facility, is expected to remain open after the Brewers depart and has been mentioned as a potential landing spot for a summer collegiate Expedition League team.
This year, the Lowell Spinners (Short Season A; NY-Penn League) will debut several improvements to LeLacheur Park—including upgrades to the lighting and playing field, an expanded team store, and a revamped food menu. Upgrades are expected to continue into 2019, when the Spinners are slated to debut a new two-tier party deck down the right field line.
On the branding side, the biggest change is the introduction of the Greeneville Reds (Rookie; Appalachian League). Earlier this year, it was announced that the Cincinnati Reds would place an affiliate at Greeneville’s Pioneer Park to take the place of the Greeneville Astros, whose operations were ceased by the Houston Astros following the 2017 season. In addition, several clubs have unveiled new logos, including the Hudson Valley Renegades (Short Season A; NY-Penn League) and the Johnson City Cardinals (Rookie; Appalachian League).
The short season leagues will also feature a unique array of promotions, with alternate branding being a major theme for the 2018 season. The Staten Island Yankees (Short Season A; NY-Penn League) have generated buzz by unveiling the Pizza Rats name and logo—which will be used for five home games this season—while the Connecticut Tigers (Short Season A; NY-Penn League) will become the New England Lobster Rolls on July 14. Also look for the Aberdeen IronBirds (Short Season A; NY-Penn League) to use alternate names at certain points this season, including the Steamed Crabs, Star-Spangled Banners, and Anglers.
A unique throwback promotion comes from the Hillsboro Hops (Short Season A; Northwest League), who will celebrate Mavericks Mondays this season. For every Monday home game beginning July 2, the Hops will take the field as the Portland Mavericks, a nod to an MiLB team that played in nearby Portland during the 1970s.
In the Appalachian League, several teams will honor long-time league president Lee Landers with a bobblehead giveaway. More info on that promotion can be found here, but the bobblehead giveaway comes as Landers serves his final season before retiring.
Later this summer, three of the four leagues will host annual All-Star Games. The New York Penn League’s contest will take place on August 14 at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, home of the State College Spikes. The Pioneer League and Northwest League will play their interleague All-Star Game on August 7, with this year’s contest taking place at Suplizio Field, home of the Grand Junction Rockies.
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