Minor League Baseball is still pursuing a shift of two high Class A teams from the California League to the Carolina League as part of a new open mind philosophy toward broader realignment. Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner described the project that he has spearheaded as "not dead" and said that a decision for 2010 will likely come within the next three weeks.
The main stumbling block has been finding two markets within the Carolina League footprint that could support a full-season affiliated team, O’Conner said.
"There is no lack of enthusiasm or desire (for the shift), it boils down to markets and buyers and timing," O’Conner said in a recent interview. "Doing it for 2009 was admittedly ambitious, but the project is not dead. We’ll come to a point here real soon when we’ll have to decide if it is going to work . . . I don’t want to convince clubs to move west to east and put them in markets that are worse than they are coming from. [...] Continue Reading »
Let’s get the week started with a stroll around the morning papers’ headlines.
Meet The Syracuse (Or Buffalo) Mets
Nobody wanted to identify with the Mets at the end of last season’s collapse, and now we’ve got to Upstate New York towns lining up for the team’s Triple-A affiliate? Get ‘em while they’re hot.
It seems like Syracuse has the advantage here, with geography working in its favor. News of the Mets potentially relocating their Triple-A affiliate to Syracuse has the town buzzing, writes Post-Standard columnist Sean Kirst. And it would be conceivable to imagine a response similar to the Yankees’ move from Columbus to Scranton, where attendance shot up over 200,000 in 2007. In a separate article, Kirst calls for Syracuse’s local government to get involved in negotiations with the Mets, calling the team’s move there "the greatest thing that could happen to professional baseball in our town."
Speaking Of Scranton
The Times-Tribune opened a three-part series on PNC Field in Sunday’s paper with a piece focusing primarily on the fear that operator Mandalay Baseball may sooner-than-later relocate the team if a new ballpark isn’t built. The article uses previous Mandalay moves as examples: shifting Shreveport to Frisco and Rockford to Dayton soon after purchasing each affiliate.
The business side of minor league baseball is starting to make headlines. As the minor league season draws to a close—and the affiliation shuffle kicks into gear—newspapers around the country are beginning to ponder the question of who will be coming to town next year.
Before getting to some of those stories, let’s just take care of a few mostly baseball-related news.
• The Rays and low Class A Bowling Green (the Sally League affiliate formerly known as the Columbus Catfish) locked up a two-year extension through 2010.
• The Rockies and short-season Tri-City also extended their PDC by two years.
• The Indians and short-season Mahoning Valley (New York-Penn) struck a two year extension to its PDC.
• As was reported in newspapers around the world, the Indians informed Major League Baseball of its intention to look for a new affiliate, essentially ending its 14-year relationship with Buffalo and giving credence to the rumors the team will move into Columbus’ new ballpark next season.
• [FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE] Just read that Double-A San Antonio re-upped with the
Tigers Padres, leaving no available Texas League teams and dispelling any rumors of the Marlins heading to the TL (see below).
• And lastly, my daughter turned 1 yesterday (sorry, couldn’t fight the parental pride).
On to the headlines . . .
By Marc Topkin
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—The Rays seem pretty well set at shortstop, with Jason Bartlett starring in the big leagues, Reid Brignac impressive until injured at Triple-A and top draft pick Tim Beckham getting comfortable as a pro.
But they added another shortstop to the organization who could have a pretty significant impact in his own way – Cal Ripken Jr.
The Rays and Ripken have partnered to purchase and relocate the team’s Florida State League franchise from Vero Beach to the team’s new spring training site, where it will become the latest extension of Ripken’s fledgling empire.
Ripken Baseball is the primary owner (the Rays have a small share) and operator of the team, which will begin play in the reconstructed new stadium next April pending anticipated approval from the FSL, Minor League Baseball and the commissioner’s office.
"This opportunity came along and we started talking to the Rays and there was an immediate sort of synergy and partnership and it seemed like a really good opportunity," Ripken said. “A Florida State League team, with the spring training piece, works. A Florida State League team without the spring training piece is a little more challenging."
There has been a flurry of teams renewing their player development contracts over the past two weeks as the minor league season draws to a close.
The most recent came when low Class A Charleston extended its relationship with the Yankees four years through the 2012 season. The two have been affiliated since 2005 and the Riverdogs have set club attendance records in each of the past two seasons and, at 272,010, still have a shot at topping last season’s mark of 284,718.
Low Class A South Bend and the Diamondbacks extended the third-longest relationship in the Midwest League through 2012. The two have been paired since 1997.
Short-season Eugene and the Padres re-upped for four years through the 2012 season. “It’s been a good relationship for all the years San Diego has been here,” Grady Fuson, San Diego’s vice president of scouting and player development, told the Register Guard (Eugene, Ore.). “I’ve certainly had a history here, I played in this league in the 1970s and managed in the 80s and 90s. I think it is even more exciting to have the chance for a new ballpark, I think that will bring a whole new environment to everything. But this is about our players, the environment where they kick off their career.
“For the most part, this is the first place they see in their path with the Padres and I think it is important that the first impression is a good one.”
Other recent signings:
It will be interesting to see if more player development contracts are renewed as the close of the minor league season approaches. Clubs seeking a new affiliation can begin notifying Minor League Baseball of their intentions at the end of the championship season until Sept. 11—major league teams follow the same timeline to report any desires to seek reaffiliation to the commissioner’s office.
Low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest League) and the Padres announced today a two-year extension to their PDC that will run through the 2010 season. Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Texas League), in the midst of completing its debut season after relocating from Wichita, yesterday re-upped with the Royals for another four years, extending their PDC through the 2012 season.
Other recent PDC updates include: High Class A Stockton (California League) and the Athletics four years through 2012; Low Class A Lakewood (South Atlantic) and the Phillies two years through 2010; Low Class A Dayton (Midwest) and the Reds four years through 2012; Short-season Williamsport (NY-Penn League) and the Phillies two years through 2010; Double-A Mobile (Southern) and the Diamondbacks two years through 2010; High Class A Modesto (California) and the Rockies two years through 2010. Short-season Lowell (NYP) and the Red Sox two years through 2010.
The Reds’ exodus from its longtime Florida spring training home to Arizona was finalized on Monday evening, when the city of Goodyear agreed to finance a $33 million ballpark project.
The Reds will begin play in the Phoenix suburb in 2010. They will share the ballpark with the Indians, who just completed their final spring training in Winter Haven, Fla., but each team will have its own clubhouse and practice fields. The cost of the entire complex is estimated at $108 million.
The Reds certainly gave their best effort to stay in Sarasota, but once voters rejected a $54 million referendum to renovate 20-year-old Ed Smith Stadium, the Reds had little choice but accept a sweetheart of a deal in Goodyear. The Reds will pay $500,000 in annual rental fees for the new state-of-the-art complex, which will be a significant upgrade from the Reds’ aging complex in Sarasota. The Goodyear complex will feature six practice fields, team office space and a brand new ballpark (that they’ll share with the Indians).
"Even if the voters in Florida approved the $54 million, there’s really no comparison to a brand new facility," John Allen, who represented the Reds in negotiations with the city of Goodyear, told the Dayton Daily News. "What we’re getting in Arizona is better than what we had or would have in Florida." [...] Continue Reading »
The drought in North Carolina ended just in time for the baseball season.
After seeing barely a drop of precipitation over the winter, high Class A Kinston was inundated last week and had all three games of its opening series against Winston-Salem postponed.
Apparently the K-Tribe’s front office went a little stir crazy after being cooped up all weekend, as they have promised to give away $5,000 to a fan in attendance if Tuesday’s home game is rained out (Monday is an off-day).
Kinston GM Shari Massengill issued a tongue-in-cheek release on Monday stating that play-by-play announcer Chris Hemeyer volunteered to take the five grand out of his annual salary if the heavens open again on Tuesday.
"She’s very generous," Hemeyer said, noting that they did check the weather report before issuing the guarantee (overcast skies, 20 percent chance of precipitation). "There is truth to the (promotion). Someone is going to win five thousand dollars if we don’t play tomorrow . . . I hope it’s not (my salary). I hope that’s just an empty threat."
The Indians’ Opening Day game was postponed after a city-wide power outage darkened Grainger Stadium with Kinston leading Winston-Salem, 3-0, in the bottom of the third inning. The Indians had the bases loaded when the power went out.
Front-office officials decided to try and brighten moods.
"You can’ help Mother Nature when half the city goes out with a power outage," Hemeyer said. "We were all just sitting around the office, pretty bummed out and dowin the dumps. We thought, ‘let’s do something that will put a positive, or more fun, spin on this situation.’ We thought that this might make it more fun. We’re putting our money our mouth is . . . or I guess my money."
Baseball America editor in chief John Manuel arrived in the newsroom on Tuesday morning slightly irked that his pre-dawn wake-up call to the Red Sox Opening Day tilt in Japan was for naught. Instead of seeing Manny Ramirez rally Boston past the Athletics, an error message ran across John’s DirecTV-powered screen.
Turns out he was not alone.
Much of Red Sox Nation missed their team’s season debut because of a faulty transponder that affected DirecTV and NESN broadcasts. And as expected, The Nation responded passionately.
Here’s a sampling of coverage from yesterday’s blackout:
A "Kegs and Eggs with the Red Sox" party was spoiled at a pub in Milford, Mass., when their ESPN2 feed went dark. Roughly 50 people rolled out of bed early for the event at Elisha’s Restaurant.
"Instead, customers at Elisha’s sipped coffee or beer and ate Dice-K Omelets and breakfast sandwiches while watching either error messages or, on one TV, ESPN," the Nashua Telegraph reported.
The Portsmouth Herald recounts locals’ failed attempts to watch the game, including Scott Campbell, who went to bed early and awoke in the morning only find to find a dark screen.
"I thought I was in the Twilight Zone," he said.
Campbell then went on to blow the incident completely out of proportion.
"I put (the Red Sox opener) a notch below the Super Bowl, the Barack Obama inaugural speech, the lunar landing. That’s the way I felt," said Campbell. "This was something I looked forward to all winter. It was like torture. I knew it was there, I just couldn’t see it."
(By the way, what’s so hard about getting up at 6 a.m.? My 2-year-old wakes me up at 6:10 sharp every morning demanding porridge and The Wiggles.) [...] Continue Reading »
The Atlanta Braves’ 42-year relationship with the city of Richmond will come to an end following the 2008 season when the club packs up its Triple-A affiliate and moves to the Atlanta suburb of Gwinnett County.
Dissatisfaction with Richmond’s antiquated stadium and frustration in the slow pace of building a replacement coupled with Gwinnett’s eagerness to land a team and construct a new ballpark was at the heart of Atlanta’s decision to relocate its International League club.
"We began discussions two months ago (with Gwinnett officials) and we have a deal done," Braves executive vice president of business operations Mike Plant said, comparing the process to the eight years of negotiations for a new ballpark with Richmond, during a conference call with Richmond-area media. [...] Continue Reading »
Stories Making Headlines Around The Minors
• Short-season Lowell has made a name for itself the past couple of years by successfully marketing its anti-Yankees philosophyâ€”the club has donated more than $40,000 in equipment to youth baseball teams that will name themselves after the Spinners instead of the Yankees. Lowell has taken it to a new level by purchasing the first base from the Yankees used in the 2004 ALCSâ€”the site of the infamous Alex Rodriguez slap play.
• Former Portland owner and longtime front office executive Jack Cain is staying on with the Beavers under new owner Merritt Paulson–though his title and job description is a tad vague.
• Colorado Springs executive Rai Henniger has been upgraded to fair condition but still has a tough road ahead of him. Henniger was severely injured when a fireworks display he was setting up exploded prior to a gameâ€”and details have emerged about two soldiers in attendance likely saved his life.
One year later, John Drennen is still getting comments about his shot heard round the worldâ€”a home run off Roger Clemens during his rehab start with Lexington.
• Battle Creek makes its home debut tonight in the Northwoods League.
Stories Making Headlines Around The Minors
• The USA Today’s Jack Carey delves into the debate over wood and metal bats and the lawsuit being filed by bat companies and USA Baseball to overturn the recent metal bat ban in New York City.
• Sarasota’s winning ways on the field certainly have not translated accordingly in the stands. The Reds Florida State League affiliate is last in the league in attendance and trying to figure out new ways to put fannies in the seats as it awaits word on a possible ballpark construction project.
• Historic Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Mass.–which opened in 1892, has hosted great players like Lou Gehrig and is on the National Register of Historic Places–is in need of a major facelift. The question remains as to whether it will get those repairs, estimated by some in the millions, and what will happen to the ballpark if it doesn’t. [...] Continue Reading »
Stories Making Headlines Around The Minors
It’s been a busy stretch here at Baseball America getting out our latest issueâ€”we bid farewell to the draft-and-follow with a feature by editor in chief Will Lingoâ€”but it’s time to get back to the Biz Beat with news from the past few days.
(Once again, send any upcoming promotions and business news to me at email@example.com.)
• Go ahead and call it the Scott Boras Academy. For the past two years, Boras has sent pitchers looking for better value in the draft to independent Fort Worth and both pitchers (Luke Hochevear and Max Scherzer), in addition to Boras and Fort Worth, have come away better for the move.
• Portland announces the Bob L. Head bobblehead winnerâ€”and it’s the dude from Iowa who won the internet voting race. Not exactly American Idol, but quite a creative promotion that actually garnered national media attention.
• The future home of the Northwest Arkansas Travelers came in $4.1 million over its estimated cost of $29.3 million. As a result, some party decks and luxury suites in the plans hit the cutting room floor.
• Josh Hamilton’s rehab assignment, which begins tonight in Durhamâ€”just a few miles from his hometown of Raleighâ€”figures to be a media tour as well.
• A reporter for the News Herald (located somewhere in northeast Ohio) takes some shots at Columbus Clippers’ Cooper Stadiumâ€”saying among other things, that the Nationals should be ashamed of letting their Triple-A team play there. I guess he hasn’t been to RFK. [...] Continue Reading »
Stories Making Headlines Around Baseball
• International League team owners approve the sale of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to a private ownership group headed by Mandalay and the Yankeesâ€”the first of three steps to complete the sale. Two Lackawanna County board members called for a reconsideration of the purchase after the recent Harrisburg sale, which was completed for just $250,000 more than the proposed deal.
• Trenton draws a team-record 9,134 spectators for Clemens’ appearance last night. Meanwhile, a pair of former players in attendance could recollect what it’s like to face The Rocket and the national media was out in force for the event.
Stories Making Headlines Around the Minors
• Acquiring Triple-A Portland is a dream come true for 34-year-old Merritt Paulson, son of U.S. treasury secretary Henry Paulson and the new majority owner and general manager of the Beavers.
“I have long had the goal of owning and operating a sports franchise,” Paulson said in a press conference the day after news of the surprising purchase made headlinesâ€”Paulson’s ownership group is Portland’s third owner in six years.
Meanwhile, Paulson plans to make his first community service appearance today when he joins 10 players from a local minor league soccer team included in the purchase as they deliver soccer balls to a Portland-area elementary school.
• The day Brad Taylor told the Biz Blog he was hoping for has finally arrived: Roger Clemens will be gracing the mound at Mercer County Waterfront Ballpark tonight against Portland and the Trenton GM is pulling out all the stops. Taylor is doubling the food at concession stands, bulking up security and adding a parking shuttle for the event. The folks up in Scranton may be pulling for the Sea Dogs tonightâ€”a strong showing by Clemens may send him straight to the majors without a Triple-A appearance.
The New York media has ramped up its coverage for Clemens’ second outing of the season. Kevin Kernan of the New York Post writes that while pitching in Trenton is great, Clemens needs to reach the big leagues as soon as possible to wake the Yankees out of their mid-spring slumber. One Thunder fan reports being offered $300 for his front-row seat; he turned down the cash to judge Clemens himself. [...] Continue Reading »
Stories Making Headlines Around the Minors
• It seems unusual that the sale of an affiliated team could come as a complete surpriseâ€”news of Harrisburg’s recent sale had been making headlines for monthsâ€”but there had been no reports of Triple-A Portland being on the market before this morning. The franchise was sold for the second time in two years when an ownership group led by Merritt Paulson, son of U.S. treasury secretary Henry Paulson, bought both the Beavers and the local minor league soccer team from developer Abe Alizadeh and the Portland Baseball Investment Group.
Terms of the deal were not released and the purchase still needs to be approved by the Pacific Coast League and Minor League Baseball. The Sacramento Business Journal estimates that previous sale of the team in 2005 was for between $7 million and $12 million.
It will be interesting to see how much the team appreciated in the short period of time. Portland appears to be a market on the rise, with attendance improving by 40,000 from 2005 to 2006.
• Liberty Media makes its first personnel move since purchasing the Braves from Time Warner, naming Greg Heller vice president and general counsel. Heller has been the assistant team counsel for the Braves since 2000 in addition to serving in a dual role as senior counsel for Turner Sports and Turner Broadcasting System Inc. (“TBS”). [...] Continue Reading »
Stories Making Headline Around the Minor . . .
• Renovations on Double-A Connecticut’s Dodd Stadium are put on hold after the City of Norwich claims the team is late on several payments, including $350,000 in back rent. To make matters worse, the Defenders are having a tough time drawing fans, averaging just 1,868 through 16 games.
• Triple-A Harrisburg’s recent sale for $13.25 million has some wondering why Lackawanna County is not asking more than $13-$16 million in a proposed sale of Triple-A Scranton to SWB Yankees LLCâ€”a partnership between Mandalay Baseball Properties and the New York Yankees.
• I missed this one yesterday: The Charlotte City Council approved a land swap deal to build a new baseball stadium for the Triple-A Charlotte Knights.
• Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas is thankful that the Devil Rays trip to Disney was a brief oneâ€”and in the same column he calls out Sentinel writer Mike Bianchi for calling the three-game series against the Rangers a hit. Thomas says the Devil Rays “cannot be saved” and that the team’s players are “pathetic.”
So much for having young talent.
Meanwhile, Marc Topkin blogs that the D-Rays are calling the Disney experiment a successful trip. [...] Continue Reading »
Stories Making Headlines Around the Minors . . .
We’ve been up to our elbows in pre-draft coverage the past two days at Baseball America but we’re back to business as usual here at the biz blog, with plenty of news to update.
• Harrisburg sells Senators to an Illinois partnership led by Michael Reinsdorf, son of of White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, for $13.25 million and includes a provision to keep the team in town for 29 years.
• Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed turned a nice profit on the sale.
• Time Warner’s sale of the Braves to Liberty Media is finally complete and the transaction values the team at $450 million.
Stories Making Headlines Around the Minors . . .
• Triple-A Colorado Springs senior vice president Rai Henniger was in critical condition late Saturday after an explosion while he was preparing a fireworks display for an afternoon game. According to team officials and the Colorado Springs Fire Department, Henniger was behind the scoreboard around 3 p.m., preparing the small fireworks display that is launched when home runs are hit or the team wins. Employees heard an explosion and found Henniger with severe injuries.
• After getting approval by the local school board on a land swap, the Charlotte City Council will provide the decisive vote on a project that would include a new stadium in uptown Charlotte.
• Ballpark negotiations are also heating up in Reno. The Washoe County Board of Commissioners will discuss Tuesday a recommendation to enter into a pre-development and finance agreement with an investment group to build a baseball stadium. [...] Continue Reading »
A look at some stories making headlines around the minors.
The waiting list for partial- and season-ticket plans for low Class A Dayton (Midwest) has grown to over 6,000. The team is trying different ways to keep in touch with its fan base hoping to land a seat in Fifth Third Field.
High Class A Brevard County (Florida State) fired media relations director Scott Pinner for making “representations in the community about sponsorship agreements that were disingenuous.” [...] Continue Reading »
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