I bumped into Craig Stein on the opening night of the trade show and asked if he had anything going at the Winter Meetings.
"We’ve always got something going on," Stein replied.
I thought he was talking about the BIRCO deal, but made a mental note to track him down again. I never did find him again in Vegas and, as a result, missed out on the story that he sold the majority share of Double-A Reading to the Phillies, as reported by the Reading Eagle.
The deal apparently has been cleared by MLB, MILB and the Eastern League. Though no figure was reported, it is believed that the ballclub, one of the best draws in the EL, was worth around $25 million. A nice return on Stein’s $1 million investment 22 years ago.
According to Chuck Domino, management of the Reading club will not change and that the Phillies’ involvement will be a transparent one.
Greetings from the Las Vegas Hilton, where the merger of the baseball and rodeo industries may have created the most bizarre marriage the city has seen since Britney briefly wed that guy from her high school.
That’s right, minor league baseball has been sharing quarters this week with the fine folks attending the National Rodeo Finals, populating the Strip with more Tracy Ringolsby look-a-likes than Elvis impersonators. Yet the Winter Meetings stops for nothing, not even these strange circumstances set to the soundtrack of incessant slot machine bells and whistles.
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Though the annual gathering of the baseball industry may have a National Lampoon-theme when it descends upon Las Vegas next week, there is still plenty of business to be addressed.
As always, the minor league affairs don’t generate the same headlines as rumors swirling about potential free agent signings. But here are a few topics that will be discussed among minor league officials at league meetings and in the lobby of the Las Vegas Hilton (the big leaguers are staying at the Bellagio).
In our current issue, I wrote about how the current economic crisis might impact minor league teams next season. The general consensus around the industry is that the minors are well positioned to withstand a recession because it is such an affordable entertainment option (average ticket prices are less than the movies). However few believed the minors will be unscathed (corporate partnerships, particularly with financial and automotive companies, are likely to be down next year) and ways teams can deal with the current climate is certainly to be the hot topic in Vegas.
"There will be a lot of discussion about the economy and how it will affect the industry and ways we can work together to deal with the economy," Minor League Baseball chief operating officer Tim Purpura said Friday morning. "The economy is a major issue for us, one of the biggest challenges we have faced in some time at the minor league level. That being said, we also feel good about the future and I think we will go about our work as usual . . . and get ready for a strong 2009."
Winston-Salem passed on the Aviators, Wallbangers, Rhinos and Racers as the moniker for the high Class A Carolina League affiliate as it prepares to move into a brand new ballpark in 2009. Instead the club went a bit off the board by choosing dash, highlighting the punctuation mark that splits the city’s name.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the club will make transform punctuation into profitability on their uniforms and ballcaps, which they will reveal at a news conference later today.
My promotional tip: racing punctuation marks. In the same fashion as the racing sausages in Milwaukee and the racing presidents in D.C., the Dash should have a nightly "dash" with oversized question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks and, of course, the hyphen. What more could you need to excited a crowd?
I’ll update after the team’s press conference today.
Well, sort of.
The end of the Warthogs era is almost over. Though I have no inside information on the team’s new name, I can tell you that a press conference announcing the team’s new identity is scheduled for tomorrow.
A reminder for those playing along at home, the names under consideration included:
• Aviators (Piedmont Airlines founded in W-S),
• Dash/The Dash (as in Winston DASH Salem),
• Racers (who doesn’t love auto racing in The Dash?),
• Rhinos ("A strong, swift ferocious animal with ties to the area," according to a team release)
• Wallbangers (why not?)
Aviators was the winner of a Baseball America unofficial internal vote, which I do think would be the best fit considering the region’s history. Dash is catchy, but even a journalist like myself can’t see naming a team after a punctuation mark. Rhinos could challenge the TinCaps for the worst new name of 2009. As I said before, find me a rhino wandering the streets of Winston-Salem and I’ll change my opinion.
We’ll update with tomorrow’s results.
The deal is not done, but it’s looking like the Triple-A Omaha Royals may not be going far once they leave their longtime home of Rosenblatt Stadium.
The Royals are expected to sign an agreement to negotiate a contract to move to a new ballpark in the Omaha suburb of Sarpy County, the Omaha World Herald reported today. The team is expected to announce the deal at a press conference later today. The World Herald article, of which only a brief portion appears available online, notes that the deal does not guarantee the Royals move to Sarpy County but only states both sides’ intentions to begin negotiations.
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