What's been a bad year for the Golden Baseball League just got worse.
The Victoria Seals announced that they are ceasing operations, citing a poor economy and the unsettled state of the Golden League. The Seals become the fifth Golden League team to either shut down, fold or announce plans to not play in 2011, shrinking what had been a 10-team league to a fraction of its former self.
During the 2010 season, the Tijuana club had to be moved to Yuma and taken over by the league after its ownership failed to pay its players and vendors. The league also had to take over the Yuma club and the St. George club folded its operations as well, leading to the league taking over the team. There is a chance that the Yuma team could return to play in 2011, but the potential owner seems sanguine about his chances. [...] Continue Reading »
The new ownership group at low Class A Hagerstown continues to reshape the franchise, on and off the field.
With the ballpark undergoing a variety of renovations, the Suns announced that it is promoting assistant general manager Bill Farley to general manager. Farley joined the team last year and replaces Bob Flannery, who left after the season to join the front office an Oklahoma City minor league hockey team.
Farley previously served as a franchising agent for Jersey Mike's Subs, where he helped establish 30 franchises.
"No one wants this job more than I do," Farley said in a release. "I love baseball and I love the minors. (Team president) Bruce (Quinn) and I have a great working relationship. I knew what he was looking for in a general manager, (that) he wants someone who can get it done (the) way he wants it done."
The Suns also confirmed that Jon Peterson has been hired as a consultant to the team president in the areas of marketing and promotions. Peterson previously served in the front offices for Triple-A New Orleans, high Class A Kinston and short-season Aberdeen.
'Laugh. Cheer. Oink'
• The Lehigh Valley IronPigs have managed to do what many new teams have not: continue to increase its fan base. Within the story in The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.), Lehigh Valley general manager Kurt Landes explains the third-year club's continued pride in its nickname:
"We've always felt confident that our name and logo would be successful, and it is, not just because we're in the top 25 in sales but also because we've been able to integrate it into the Lehigh Valley community, from the 'Laugh-Cheer-Oink' slogan to 'Go Hog Wild' to the way we theme the ballpark.
"We're excited that our fans have loved the logo and we're one of the more successful minor league teams. It's a huge sense of pride when I'm out in public and see people wearing IronPigs hats and T-shirts."
Triple-A Rochester made official its plan to continue operating the beleaguered short-season Batavia Muckdogs in the 2011 season.
This will be Rochester's fourth season in charge of its neighbor ballclub after the Red Wings rescued Batavia from bankruptcy following the 2007 season. Rochester had hoped that it could turn the Muckdogs, one of Minor League Baseball's top licensing clubs, into a success at the gate, but instead has seen attendance drop over the past three seasons while taking a financial hit.
Rochester CEO Naomi Silver had earlier indicated that Rochester was not planning on renewing its agreement with Batavia but recently changed course and decided to stick with the team while it looks for a new buyer.
The Red Wings faced an Oct. 31 deadline on pulling out of its contract with Batavia before the deal automatically renewed. Rochester likely can recoup its losses operating Batavia after the team is sold–as part of the original agreement, Rochester receives 5 percent of the proceeds from the sale.
"We would not want to walk away from the operation, leaving the team at risk of not being able to support itself while awaiting a sale," Silver said in a press release. Our staying will permit the (Genesee County Baseball Club) board the opportunity to seek out a sale of the Muckdogs on terms which will be most beneficial to the Batavia community."
The independent Tucson Toros (Golden League) are expected to announce today their plans for next season, the Arizona Daily Star has reported. Triple-A Portland is planning to relocate to Tucson next season while it awaits a permanent home—owner-in-waiting Jeff Moorad is awaiting a Nov. 30 vote by the city council in the San Diego suburb of Escondido on a proposed $50 million ballpark. (There's some scuttle that the council should postpone the vote if legislators lose their seats in the Nov. 2 election, but the council appears determined to proceed because Moorad is scheduled to make a final lump sum payment before new officials would take office.)
Toros owner Jay Zucker has expressed his interest in operating the Portland club this season at Tucson's Hi-Corbett Field. The Daily Star reports that Portland is likely to play the newer facility, Tucson Electric Park, across town. (Two sources had previously told me that the team was more likely to play at Hi-Corbett.)
The Pacific Coast League has yet to release its 2011 schedule, though PCL president Branch Rickey previously said they have it set so that Portland's location does not impact the schedule.
• New low Class A Hagerstown owners have begun a new team restoration plan by funding a $99,000 overhaul of the playing surface at Municipal Stadium and upgrading its technology network to provide fans with more in-game information, the Herald-Mail (Hagerstown, Md.) reports. With the city's assistance, the team is also renovating home and visitor clubhouses.
Mandalay Baseball completed the sale of the Suns last month to an ownership group headed by local businessman Bruce Quinn.
John Cook is stepping down from his post as Minor League Baseball's vice president of business operations to return to his Alabama roots, joining the Double-A Birmingham Barons as the club's new director of sales.
Cook, 39, spent six years at Minor League Baseball headquarters in St. Petersburg, Fla. He had previously worked as general manager for high Class A Clearwater. Cook is a 1996 graduate of the University of Alabama.
“John has been instrumental in the development of Minor League Baseball. Through John’s leadership and guidance, our staff has performed at an extremely high level to advance the Minor League Baseball brand and our many initiatives," MILB president Pat O'Conner said. "I appreciate John’s loyalty and dedication for Minor League Baseball and my administration. We will miss his influence in St. Petersburg, but know he will bring a wealth of experience to the Barons’ operation.”
Also joining Birmingham are Demetrius Hubbard as a marketing assistant; Craig Spillman, as director of concessions; Brandon Harms, as tickets manager; Charlie Santiago, who takes on a new role with team as corporate event planner.
The ownership group headed by Padres owner Jeff Moorad has reached a working agreement to purchase the Triple-A Portland Beavers, Portland owner Merritt Paulson announced yesterday.
The sale is pending approval by Minor League Baseball and the Pacific Coast League—Moorad's North County Baseball group already has received approval by Major League League Baseball when it purchased the Padres in 2009. The sale is expected to be completed in early December, before the start of the Winter Meetings on Dec. 6.
Paulson's announcement confirms the inevitable—that the team is leaving Portland. Moorad is planning on moving the club to Tucson for at least one season until a permanent location is finalized. The group is currently negotiating with the San Diego suburb of Escondido on a ballpark/retail project. The Padres are confident an agreement will be reached.
The Beavers were forced to pull out of Portland after this season after Paulson had agreed to convert their ballpark, PGE Park, into a soccer-only facility for his Major League Soccer team. Paulson had believed he would be able to construct a new ballpark elsewhere in the Portland area, but voters and local leaders rejected his three proposals for a new facility.
"As I have expressed many times, moving the team from the Portland area represents a professional and personal disappointment for me," Paulson said in a statement. "It was not the outcome we anticipated and expected. It remains my strong belief that just as the Beavers returned to Portland in 2001 after being moved to Salt Lake City in the 1990s, Triple-A baseball will again return to Portland; only this time the return will be to a permanent baseball-specific ballpark home where the franchise can flourish and succeed. I remain committed to aiding in that effort as I can."
Though the Padres are planning on moving to Tucson next season, no deal has been finalized. "The discussions and negotiations are focusing on Tucson," Rickey said, "but I think to define that as a resolved issue is premature."
Moorad's group cannot officially request a transfer until the sale has closed. Once the sale is complete, the team is planning on proposing a transfer to Tucson, several sources said. Though they have not decided on which of Tucson's two ballparks to play at, one source familiar with the process said they are leaning toward Hi-Corbett Field—in part because of its location and appeal with local residents.
After a two-year hiatus, the Pacific Coast League is set to return to Tucson—though it hopes the move is temporary.
The ownership group headed by Padres owner Jeff Moorad is planning to move the Portland Beavers to Tucson when its purchase of the franchise is completed in early December, several sources said. The team would play in Tucson for at least one season before moving to what it hopes will be a permanent home in suburban San Diego. Moorad’s North County Baseball group is negotiating a ballpark project with officials in the suburb of Escondido now.
“We are processing the transfer application of the ownership (of the Portland Beavers) to the Moorad group,” Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner said. “Once that transfer occurs, then they will have standing to file a relocation application. Until then, they don’t.”
Five years after the biggest split in independent league baseball, the gang has gotten back together.
The American Association officially welcomed the Winnipeg Goldeyes, Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, Kansas City T-Bones and Gary Southshore Railcats to the league on Wednesday, as the league's owners approved the four teams' applications to join the league.
The move brings back into the same league many of the stalwarts of the Northern League that had helped the league become the bellwether independent league in the 1990s. St. Paul, Sioux City, Sioux Falls and Lincoln left the Northern League after the 2005 season to form the American Association because of disagreements over the direction of the league and its leadership structure. Anger and resentment subsided over the next five years, as the logic of reduced travel expenses and renewed rivalries eventually won out. [...] Continue Reading »
Bull Durham, the campy 1988 blockbuster starring Kevin Costner as a minor league lifer, has often been credited with fueling the minor league baseball boom, turning a mom-and-pop sport into a billion-dollar industry.
While the film's impact on drawing fans to the ballpark shouldn't be minimized, the minor league revolution truly began 11 years earlier in Columbus, Ohio. That's when local civic leader Harold Cooper helped return baseball to Ohio's state capital by organizing a renovation of Franklin County Stadium, complete with luxury suites and astroturf, that transformed the Clippers into the International League's flagship franchise and served as a model for other teams.
Fittingly, the ballpark was renamed Cooper Stadium in 1984.
"It was a big, big deal, and it was really the refurbishing of that ballpark that you can trace the ballpark construction (boom) back to," International League president Randy Mobley said.
Baseball bid farewell to Cooper and another minor league baseball stalwart, Pawtucket owner Ben Mondor. The two passed away yesterday in their respective hometowns, where each was a beloved figure. Cooper was 87. Mondor was 85.
"Our game has lost two icons," Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Conner said. "These two men are the architects of the modern minor league baseball era."
The Heart Of Pawtucket
Much like Cooper, Mondor's impact on baseball went beyond the state lines his ballpark sat in. At the urging of the Red Sox in 1976, Mondor took over a bankrupt Pawtucket franchise that had become ostracized by local business owners and fans. (In 1977, Pawtucket won the International League championship but managed to draw just 77,000 fans).
Mondor, a retired local businessman, slowly but surely rebuilt those damaged relationships through shrewd business practices, a charitable involvement in the community, and a naturally welcoming and disarming personality that made players, fans and employees feel welcome at McCoy Stadium.
“This guy was an icon," team president Mike Tamburro, who Mondor hired in 1977, told the Boston Globe. "What he accomplished here is just absolutely remarkable. It’s a great loss, not only for us personally but for the entire community. He was a Rhode Island treasure.
“It’s not going to end now. This operation will continue to grow and flourish because of him and in his memory.’’
Mondor oversaw the $16 million renovation of McCoy Stadium in 1999 that allowed the team to stay in Pawtucket. And even after many years around the game, Mondor considered himself a baseball outsider.
When passing along advice at league meetings, Mondor always prefaced his comments with "I'm not a baseball guy, I'm just a business man," Mobley said. "He was always right. It would cause you to think about why you are doing this or why you are doing that."
It was Mondor's relationship with fans and players that was truly special. Before road trips this past season, Mondor would hand manager Torey Lovullo stacks of cash so he could treat the players to a good meal. "He treated the players like his own family and his devotion to their development was absolute," Red Sox GM Theo Epstein told The Globe.
Columbus' Father Figure
Cooper worked his way up in Columbus from clubhouse attendant to general manager. He once told current GM Ken Schnacke that his first job with the team, back in the 1930s, was scraping mold off of hot dogs so they could be re-used the next day. "I laughed and promised people that this is not what we sell as dime dogs," Schnacke said.
Cooper is actually credited with saving baseball in Columbus twice—first, when he brokered a deal to bring a team to town in 1955, and again in 1977 (seven years after the Columbus Jets departed), when as a county commissioner he led the charge for a $6.5 million ballpark renovation.
The project was not necessarily well received by everyone. Mobley recalls a headline in the local paper referring to the project as "Cooper's Folly."
"He certainly proved over time that he knew what he was doing," Mobley said.
The county bought a franchise from Charleston, W.Va., for $25,000 and drew 457,251 fans in 1977, pioneering a business practice that would later become a recipe for success throughout the minors: better facilities means better business.
"You saw it throughout the minors," Cooper told Baseball America's Will Lingo in 1998. "Wherever there was a new ballpark, there was a new enthusiasm and a new interest in baseball."
In 1978, Cooper took over as president of the International League and in 1985 hired Mobley, then a front-office official in Columbus, as his administrator and groomed him as his successor. Mobley took over as president in late 1990, and though his even-keeled demeanor contrasts Cooper's bigger-than-life bulldog personality, Mobley credits much of his success and longevity to the lessons he learned in those five years.
"It was a remarkable experience," Mobley said. "One of the things he shared with me early on is that (serving as league president) is a wonderful opportunity. Because of his experience working with the team for so long, there were different family events that he missed because of having to be at the ballpark. Here is an opportunity to do something where you have a little flexibility, stay involved in the game you love and have a family life."
Mobley also learned how to run the league. He recalled one incident when a farm director bickered with Cooper after he disallowed a transaction. The farm director threatened to sue him. " ' Bring it on,' " Mobley recalls Cooper responding. "He stood for what he believed in and didn't let go."
Ultimately, Cooper had to let go of the stadium bearing his name. Clippers management began brainstorming a new ballpark project about 12 years ago, and Cooper was resistant to the idea at first, Schnacke said. But as new sports complexes sprouted around Columbus, Cooper began to realize that the team would not be able to compete. He took part in the committee to build Huntington Park, a state-of-the-art facility that debuted in 2009 by topping the minors in attendance with 666,797 fans.
The ballpark also debuted with a bronze statue of Cooper out front, honoring him as "the patriarch of Columbus baseball and the modern-day father of Columbus baseball."
"I can see the back of the statue from my office," Schancke said this morning, "and there are flowers and candles around it right now. It's quite touching."
Cooper made it out to each of the Clippers' six day games this season and a couple of night games as well. There was often a cue of people hoping to shake his hand.
"We would let people know when he was (at the ballpark)," Schnacke said. "They would come into the suite and reminisce with him. It was neat to see."
Mobley and Cooper remained close over the years, regularly meeting for lunch. Over the past several months, as Cooper's health worsened, Mobley would bring sandwiches to Cooper's house and the pair would sit around the kitchen table talking baseball and life. At their last meeting, about three weeks ago, Mobley brought the final league attendance sheets from the season.
"He was always interested in how everyone was doing," Mobley said.
The Reds stay in the Carolina League was brief.
After only one season in Lynchburg, the Reds are headed west to the California League (most likely landing in Bakersfield) after the three remaining Carolina League affiliates were snatched up.
As expected, the Rangers pulled out of Bakersfield after their four-year player development contract expired and will sign on with Myrtle Beach—the Carolina League affiliate owned by new Rangers managing partner/CEO Chuck Greenberg. Meanwhile, the Braves, who had been in Myrtle Beach since 1999, signed a four-year PDC with Lynchburg. That left Kinston, which extended by two years its partnership with the Indians—a relationship that dates back to 1987.
Just three high Class A affiliates remain available, all in the Cal League: Bakersfield, Inland Empire (Dodgers) and Rancho Cucamonga (Angels). Speculation has been that Rancho, under the new ownership of Bobby Brett, is interested in hooking up with the Dodgers. That would likely send the Angels to Inland and leave the Reds in Bakersfield.
Bakersfield remains the least popular high A affiliate because of aging Sam Lynn Ballpark (the team recently sent out a tweet celebrating the stadium's 70th birthday). The stadium no longer meets facility standards. Games often can't start until the sun sets because the batter's eye faces west. And, despite Cal League president Charlie Blaney's best efforts, no suitor has stepped forward to build a new ballpark.
(A complete chart of affiliations can be found here.)
In other affiliation shuffle news:
* The Blue Jays are leaving short-season Auburn (New York-Penn) and headed to Vancouver (Northwest).
* The Astros continue to eye Oklahoma City (Pacific Coast) as its new Triple-A home.
* The Brewers are set to announce an extension with Double-A Huntsville (Southern), by default, despite concerns about the condition of Joe Davis Stadium.
If flat is indeed the new up, then Minor League Baseball had one hell of a season.
The days of setting attendance records annually may be gone, but the sport did an admirable job of weathering a difficult economy in 2010. MILB's 15 leagues (including the Triple-A Mexican League) drew 41,452,436 fans this season, a modest 0.5 percent decrease from last year's total of 41,644,518.
"Once again, Minor League Baseball is showing its resiliency in the current economic conditions," Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Conner said. "While the economy sputters in many areas of the country, our fans continue to respond to our product. For Minor League Baseball to be down less than 1 percent in season attendance is truly a testament to the loyalty of our fans and the work of our teams."
The minors remain well behind its pre-recession glory days. That's when the sport, amid a ballpark building boom, set attendance records for five consecutive seasons—culminating in 2008 with a total of 43,263,740. But it appears to be heading in the right direction. More teams saw an increase at the gate this season than last, with 63 of 160 teams averaging more fans this season. In 2009, just 58 of 160 teams increased their average attendance.
O'Conner noted that the sport may very well have seen an overall increase if not for 100 rainouts in August. However, the minors would have certainly fallen even further behind its 2009 total if not for the performance of a handful of teams.
Triple-A Round Rock is expected to confirm a summer's worth of rumors on Thursday by announcing that it will end an 11-year relationship with the Astros to sign a player-development contract with the Rangers.
The affiliation unites two Nolan Ryan-owned ballclubs: The Express are guided by the Ryan-Sanders ownership group and the Rangers finally became Ryan's after he and veteran minor league operator Chuck Greenberg completed an arduous process to purchase the
The move will come on the first day of a 15-day period when teams are allowed to negotiate player development contracts with other clubs and likely will be the biggest move of the affiliation shuffle. It also ends an era in Oklahoma City, Texas' Triple-A affiliate since 1983 and the home ballpark of the Triple-A National Championship game.
The Orioles era in Bluefield came to a close after 43 years last week when Baltimore decided to trim its number of affiliates down to six and exit the Appalachian League.
It didn't take long for a new era to begin.
The Blue Jays announced today that they have agreed on a four-year management agreement with Bluefield, a move that adds a seventh affiliate to an organization that has rededicated its focus on player development and scouting under new general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
"This is another example of our commitment to scouting and development as the driving force to move our organization forward," vice president of baseball operations Tony LaCava said. "The first step was to invest in our scouting staff, then allocating resources to the first year player draft and amateur free agents. Next year we will take another step forward by expanding to seven minor league affiliates. Bluefield is a tremendous partner for us and presents a great opportunity for our young men to develop."
Toronto joins the Appalachian League for the first time since the 2006 season, when the club pulled out of Pulaski shortly before the Winter Meetings under former general J.P. Ricciardi. The move came too late in the year for the league to find a replacement and forced it to play a nine-team schedule in 2007 before the Mariners brought baseball back to Pulaski in 2008.
Toronto had expressed interest about returning to the Appalachian league to league president Lee Landers during last year's Winter Meetings. When Landers told Blue Jays farm director Charlie Wilson about Baltimore's decision in late August, both Wilson and minor league pitching coordinator Doug Davis were in Bluefield checking out the field the next day.
"Like anything else, it's nice to be wanted," Landers said. "With Toronto, I didn't have to do a selling job. They know all about the Appalachian League. The front office staff that is there now isn't the reason they left Pulaski in (2006). They have made an aggressive dedication to their scouting and player-development staff and they felt coming to Bluefield is in the team's best interest."
Wilson and Davis were back in town this morning for a press conference, along with pitching instructor (and former Cy Young Award winner) Pat Hentgen. The team announced that Dennis Holmberg will manage the team in 2011 after spending nine season with short-season Auburn (New York-Penn League).
The Blue Jays and Bluefield still need to formalize the agreement, Landers said. Appalachian League teams do not sign player-development contracts like most minor league circuits, but instead are operated by their major league affiliate.
Even amid yet another slump on the field, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs are making a run at first place—in attendance, that is.
The third-year Triple-A International League affiliate tops all of minor league baseball with an average of 9,206 fans per game, and 543,171 total, in 59 openings. With 12 home dates (and several noteworthy promotions remaining on the creative team’s schedule), the IronPigs are on pace to top their total from last season (641,335) while making a run at Triple-A Columbus’ minor league high from 2009 (666,797).
“I think being No. 1 overall is fantastic and I have started to realize that we have a phenomenal shot at doing that, but we’ve just focused on increasing our attendance each year,” Lehigh Valley general manager Kurt Landes said.
The IronPigs have done just that in their brief existence. Playing in a 3-year-old ballpark with plenty of frills certainly helps bring fans out. But the IronPigs have steadily grown their fan base and packed Coca-Cola Park while playing in the 27th largest market among the 30 Triple-A teams.
They have also received little help on the field.
The Phillies have had plenty of success at the big league level since the IronPigs debuted in 2008, but their Triple-A affiliate has found a regular home near the bottom of the International League standings.
This season, Lehigh Valley’s 46-72 mark is better than only Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the IL. The team finished 71-73 in 2009 (good for third in the IL’s Northern Division) after going a brutal 55-89 in 2008, the IL’s worst mark. In fact, Landes said, the IronPigs have never had a winning record in three seasons—not even 1-0.
The losing has hardly discouraged IronPigs fans. On Tuesday, for example, Lehigh Valley sold out Coca-Cola Park by drawing 10,000 fans despite the team having lost 14 of 15 games. On Thursday, Lehigh Valley snapped an 11-game home losing streak in front of 9,502 fans. The team averaged 9,582 fans over those 12 games.
“If our team was competitive in August, it would be such an incredible environment, to be involved in a playoff chase,” Landes said. “We could do some truly amazing things if we had a competitive team . . . It makes it that much more important for us that we do our jobs perfectly. Entertain. Promotions. Giveaways. We have to be on top our games to do things perfectly.”
The Pigs have made the most of a ballpark that has proven to be one of the nicest in the minors. They sold out their eight group-seating areas for the entire season—which include five suites, two party porches and a picnic area, and accounts for roughly 800 fans per game. One of their offseason goals is to add more group-seating options to the ballpark as well as convert some standing-room only areas into fixed seats.
The highlight of Lehigh Valley’s season came last month when they hosted the Triple-A all-star game—which they did in typical IronPigs fashion. A team known for its creativity did not disappoint—they allowed select fans to watch the home run derby from inside a batting cage on the infield dirt and placed an employee in a crane that was raised a foot with every home run. The event also gave the team a chance to show off its home to their peers.
“The greatest compliment was paid by other team executives and how amazed they were at the facility and at the promotions we do,” Landes said. “We were thrilled to share the IronPigs experience.”
Meanwhile, Triple-A Sacramento will finish out of the top spot for a second consecutive season. The River Cats, which topped the minors in attendance for eight straight seasons after debuting in 2000, ranks second this season but is on pace for another drop.
The recession has hit Sacramento hard, and it has shown at the gate. The team is averaging 8,870 fans per game—an impressive total, but one that is down from 9,126 last season and 9,725 in 2008.
The Columbus Clippers are third overall while experiencing a slight dip after debuting their new ballpark in grand fashion last year. The minors' top draw in 2009, Columbus' average has fallen from 9,526 last season to 8,736 this year through 57 openings.
|Lehigh Valley (AAA)||543,171||9,206||59|
|Round Rock (AAA)||523,596||8,311||63|
The affiliation shuffle doesn't get going until September, but that doesn't mean there is no activity to report.
Teams are free to extend player-development contracts with their current affiliates during the season, and the Dodgers did that with two of their clubs last week. Los Angeles signed deals through the 2014 season with both low Class A Great Lakes (Midwest League) and Double-A Chattanooga (Southern). That leaves just high Class A Inland Empire (California) and Triple-A Albuquerque (Pacific Coast) as the Dodgers' remaining unsigned full-season affiliates.
There is little reason to believe Los Angeles won't re-up with both clubs. The Dodgers certainly want to remain in the California League. Besides Bakersfield and High Desert—two affiliates in flux—just Rancho Cucamonga and Modesto are the only remaining unsigned clubs in the Cal League.
The Reds got high marks for a job well done hosting the Civil Rights Game the past two years as the event transitioned from its birthplace in Memphis to a big league ballpark for the first time.
Cincinnati, a city not know for its civil rights movement history, packed the ballpark for a pair of regular season games while mixing in a variety of fan-friendly and educational events—like round-table discussions and awards galas that have become staples of the Civil Right Game as well as highlighting the city's role in the Underground Railroad.
Perhaps no higher praise can come from Dave Chase, the former Memphis Redbirds general manager who created the Civil Rights Game in 2007 before seeing Major League Baseball relocate it two years later. "They did a marvelous presentation that I thought tied in the Civil Rights Movement with the game," Chase said before last month's event.
Here's hoping that Atlanta can follow in the Reds' footsteps as it hosts the Civil Rights Game over the next two seasons.
No big league city can match the historical significance in the civil rights movement of Atlanta, the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (of which King was its first president). The local historically black colleges produced many leaders of the movement and organized many sit-ins during the 1960s.
Atlanta is also home to the King Center and the Carter Center.
"The Civil Rights Game weekend has become one of the premier celebrations on the Major League Baseball calendar. We are pleased to have the Atlanta Braves and city of Atlanta as hosts for this imporant event remembering a significant era in America's history," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a release.
Added Braves president John Schuerholz: "The Atlanta Braves are extremely proud and honored that our organization and our great city were selected to host the Civil Rights Game for 2011 and 2012. We look forward with great anticipation and excitement to presenting these significant, meaningful games in the finest fashion."
Count Minor League Baseball among the few who think the Nationals should take their time before promoting Stephen Strasburg to the big leagues.
While Strasburg's record-setting days may be ahead of him in Washington, he's certainly helped some minor league teams reach new heights during the first seven weeks of his professional career. Three of Strasburg's seven starts between the Double-A Eastern League and Triple-A International League have resulted in attendance records for the home team (his April 27 outing in Reading was a makeup game from a rainout the night before and thus did not have an announced crowd).
Strasburg is scheduled to make his third start since being promoted to the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs tonight at the Rochester Red Wings' Frontier Field. As has been the case most everywhere Strasburg has gone this season, the game has been the talk of the town in Rochester.
The Red Wings had sold over 9,000 tickets by lunch time and it appeared only a steady afternoon rain could put a damper on the evening's festivities and prevent Rochester from reaching its standing-room-only capacity of 13,500.
"It it was sunny, it would be crazy here tonight," Red Wings general manager Dan Mason said this afternoon as rain continued to fall three hours before game time. "The buzz that this young man has created is something we haven't seen here for awhile."
There simply was not enough space in my 900-word article on Astros announcers Brett Dolan and Dave Raymond to include all of the great tales about their adventures in the minors en route to their current major league gig.
They each spent 12 years in the minors, enough time to hone their craft in relative anonymity. It was also more than enough time to experience most everything the minors could throw at a person.
Giving plasma to make ends meet, sleeping out of your car, living in the umpire's clubhouse and transporting prisoners from the local jail to help out a short-staffed groundscrew. These were included in the article. Below are a few more details that did not make it into print.
Many of the obituaries running on Tigers legend Ernie Harwell state that he is the only announcer ever to be traded, when Dodgers owner Branch Rickey dealt for him out of the minors. Dave Raymond may care to differ. After all, his stay with the Charleston RiverDogs came to an end when Mike Veeck swapped him with the St. Paul Saints broadcast team.
The road trip could not have come at a better time.
The Triple-A Nashville Sounds departed for an eight-game trip on Monday after the final two games of its homestand were washed out by the flooding that devastated so much of the team's hometown.
Greer Stadium survived the storms with little damage, and Sounds director of communications and operations Doug Scopel suggested that the field may have been playable on Monday if needed. But getting away was the best solution–crowds likely would have been sparse as the city cleaned up from storms that left at least 18 dead.
"When you have something this severe and tragic, weather wise, it will not only affect the baseball business, but any other business going on," Scopel said.
The Sounds weren't the only team impacted by the weekend storms. Their opponent, the Memphis Redbirds, endured a rough weekend in Nashville while its ballpark back home was flooded with rain.
The International League announced a new award it will debut this season honoring those who work behind the scenes to make minor league baseball such a success.
Longtime Toledo Mud Hens broadcaster Frank Gilhooley has been named the first recipient of the Spirit of the International League award. Gilhooley, in his 24th season in Toledo, will be recognized by the Mud Hens on May 24 during "Frank Gilhooley Day" at Fifth Third Field.
“Frank epitomizes exactly what we had in mind when establishing the Spirit of the International League Award,” International League president Randy Mobley said in a release. “With his humble and pleasant approach, Frank is an extended member of the family for Mud Hens fans listening on the radio.'
The award seeks to recognize those who "work tirelessly to enhance the fan experience and significantly contribute to the overall success of the production that is today’s minor league baseball game," the IL said in a release.
Tireless work certainly seems like an appropriate description. In recent weeks, I've spoken to several people from around the minor league community about the long hours and hard work it takes to make it in the business. Long hours for little pay seems like part of most any job description in the game, so it would seem such an award is deserved.
"During a baseball game these days there are many, many individuals in and around our ballparks who impact the fan experience," Mobley said. "Some are visible and others are not so visible, but each and every one of them is vital to the success of the operation of their team and this League. With the creation of this award we will look forward to annually recognizing an individual who has clearly demonstrated a fan-centered approach on a daily basis."
Beginning in 2011, each International League team will be able to nominate a person from its staff for the award. The IL will select the winner.
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