Minor league umpires are going to join a larger union.
The Association of Minor League Umpires (AMLU) passed a measure by a 91 percent to vote to join the Office and Professional Employees International Union of the AFL-CIO. The new union will be called AMLU/OPEIU Guild 322, the number representing three balls, two strikes, two outs.
"Our affiliation with OPEIU is the next step in a progression toward improving the lives and working conditions of some of the hardest working and most underappreciated people in the game," AMLU President Shaun Francis said in a release. "We evaluated the pros and cons of affiliation with a variety of different unions and OPEIU was head and shoulders above the rest. OPEIU's size, diversity of membership in a wide range of industries, as well as the quality of staff made them a perfect fit for our group."
Umpires starting salary is $1,800 a month and they are paid only during the season—from the start of spring training in March until September. Much like many minor league ballplayers, umpires are forced to find temporary employment during the offseason.
"We're now looking to take the umpires to another level and secure rights and benefits afforded to other baseball professionals, including wage improvements, job security and better working conditions," Francis said. "We look forward to bringing OPEIU's talents and resources into the world of professional umpiring to make these goals possible."
Stephen Strasburg had yet to throw a Grapefruit League pitch, much less receive a minor league assignment, when the Potomac Nationals unveiled their first ticket package geared for last June’s No. 1 overall draft pick.
Though the five-game plan is not officially dedicated to Strasburg—the P-Nats insist they have no inside information regarding which jersey the organization’s unofficial savior will wear in his pro debut—there is no mistaking who Washington’s high Class A Carolina League affiliate is selling with their “$15 Million Plan.”
In a carefully crafted press release, Potomac announced that for as little as $40, fans can receive a ticket to Opening Day and four other P-Nats games of their choice, a flex plan that they can build around Strasburg—or at least the prospect of a Strasburg arrival. If (God forbid) Strasburg skips the Carolina League altogether (bite your tongue), fans will still be able to use the flex plan to attend games of their choice.
“You get Opening Day tickets guaranteed. If he starts in (low Class A) Hagerstown or doesn’t come here at all, you could still see the top talent in D.C. come play for us,” Potomac vice president/general manager Jonathan Griffith said. “It’s kind of why we’re putting a number with it ($15 million) and not a guy’s name (Strasburg). If you put a guy’s name on it, it would guarantee his arrival. And as a minor league team, you can’t guarantee a guy’s arrival.”
News and notes from the business side of baseball
More Food My Kids Will Never Eat
In an attempt to grab headlines and re-shape the food pyramid, the low Class A West Michigan Whitecaps have proposed 10 new items to their ballpark menu. Fans now get a chance to vote on which one will be added.
Highlighting the bizarre and unhealthy, one item stands out: the Twinkie cheese dog. Do two delicacies sure never to go bad combine to make something good? The Whitecaps want to find out, by stuffing a hot dog in a twinkie and covering it with cheese.
West Michigan did garner attention—not all of it positive—last season with its gargantuan Fifth Third Burger, a 4,800 calorie cheeseburger that cost $20 and came with a prize if you ate the entire thing in one sitting. (That item is back this year in case you missed out.)
Other candidates for this year's menu include: chicken and waffles, chili mac tacos, chocolate covered bacon, Cudighi Yooper Sandwich (apparently an Upper Peninsula tradition), and the declaration of indigestion (a half-pound foot-long hot dog covered in a philly cheese steak).
A winner is to be announced in March.
Tulsa Ballpark on Schedule
Despite brutal winter weather, Double-A Tulsa is on schedule and on budget for opening $39.2 million ONEOK Field.
Triple-A Portland is exploring the possibility of temporarily relocating to Tucson, Ariz., for the start of the 2011 season if it cannot complete construction on a new local ballpark in time for Opening Day, a pair of newspapers recently reported.
The Arizona Star reported that Portland owner Merritt Paulson has been exploring the Tucson market, which hosts a pair of ballparks suitable for Triple-A baseball. Meanwhile, Portland general manager Chris Metz confirmed to the Oregonian that the team has been looking at other markets, but he would not elaborate as to where.
The Beavers must find a new home before Opening Day 2011 because the Portland City Council approved a $31 million renovation of PGE Park for the Major League Soccer team owned by Paulson, the Portland Timbers.
In a statement to the Oregonian, Paulson said that his goal remains to keep the team in the Portland area, noting the three proposals for a new ballpark in local sites that were ultimately rejected. No new location for a ballpark in the Portland area has been announced, which only raises the challenge of having a facility in place by the start of the 2011 season.
"With no immediate local solution at this time, however, I have been approached by other locales with potential contingency plans for the Beavers outside the area," Paulson said in the statement. "Given the rich history of the Beavers in Portland and the loyalty of our fans, this is not our preferred option, but one that we have no choice but to consider, given the timelines involved."
The shuffling of general managers that began roughly three weeks ago when North Johnson left high Class A Myrtle Beach for Triple-A Gwinnett culminated this afternoon with two teams locking up new leadersship.
First, Myrtle Beach filled its vacant position by hiring Double-A Binghamton's veteran general manager, Scott Brown. The B-Mets then promoted assistant general manager Jim Weed, who has been with the club 14 years, to take over as their GM.
Brown, 44, comes to the Pelicans after spending the last five years as GM in Binghamton. According to a Pelicans release, Brown guided the B-Mets to the club's second-largest single season attendance mark in 2007 and the club's second-best five-year composite attendance in team history.
"After conducting an extensive national search, we are thrilled to have landed a leader for our management team who not only has the depth of experience and industry-wide respect that Scott brings, but someone who clearly understands and shares our organization's primary goal to provide the most fun and affordable brand of family entertainment on the Grand Stand," Pelicans chairman and managing partner Chuck Greenberg said.
Brown is the son of former longtime Orioles public relations director Robert W. Brown and landed his first job in the game as a press box assistant during Baltimore's 1979 American League championship season.
Meanwhile, Weed, who began with the team as an intern in 1996 during his senior year at SUNY Cortland, is set to take over in Binghamton.
"I'm excited about the new opportunity to lead the ballclub," Weed said. "We have a veteran staff, fantastic corporate support, loyal fans and a fun-filled atmosphere at NYSEG Stadium. We all want to continue the tradition of affordable family entertainment and showcase the team to more and more people each season."
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