An asterisk could have been included when we named Memphis’ Auto Zone Park the No. 1 ballpark in the minors this spring. After all, the bells and whistles featured throughout the downtown facility are unmatched in the minors — unfortunately so is its price tag.
No ballpark has matched Memphis’ $80.5 million cost since it was built in 2000. And that cost has finally caught up with the Redbirds, as the club was unable to make a $1.625 million bond payment on the ballpark in March, forcing the team to go in default on the facility and tap a reserve fund for the first time.
"Technically it’s in default, but the reserve fund is there for this occurrence,” Redbirds president Dave Chase told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. ”It’s the first time we’ve had to use the reserve fund. We’ve been openly talking to the bondholders about how we go forward from here."
The stadium debt has forced Memphis to put the team and ballpark up for sale, as their annual $5 million payment essentially wipes out the profits from one of the minors’ top grossing teams. It has also made it difficult to find an owner—the St. Louis Cardinals backed out of an agreement last winter.
Minor League Baseball director of media relations Jim Ferguson is stepping down after 50 years in professional baseball.
Ferguson’s career began in the Reds’ media relations department in 1972 before he left Cincinnati for the Padres in 1991. Fergie joined Minor League Baseball in 1995 and has long been considered an approachable and helpful member of the industry as it experienced the biggest growth in the sport’s history.
Ferguson also served a sportswriter for the Dayton Daily News and covered the Reds for 14 years before joining their staff.
"I want to thank Jim Ferguson for his years of service to professional baseball, but especially Minor League Baseball and our staff in St. Petersburg,” said Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner. “A 50-year career in this sport just doesn’t happen.
“Jim will be greatly missed for the insights and wealth of experience he brought to the office everyday. Jim was always a good teammate to people around him and that, too, will be greatly missed.”
Ferguson will be replaced by associate director of media relations Steve Densa, who joined MILB in 1997 and has served in the media relations department since ’98. Densa had spent the previous two years as the director of media relations for Fayettville in the South Atlantic League.
“Steve has been involved in several aspects of our company and worked exclusive in media relations of late, as he honed his skills for this opportunity," O’Conner said. "Steve earned the right to succeed Jim through his hard work and professional development. We are confident Steve will continue the traditions of service and quality to our supporting media outlets, clubs, leagues and fans."
We’re going to have something on this in the upcoming issue, but I just wanted to get the news on here as well before the magazine hits the newsstands.
We’ve got it from several sources that Minor League Baseball executive Eric Krupa has been selected by the South Atlantic League presidential search committee and will be introduced as John Herny Moss’ replacement at the league all-star game later this monthâ€”pending approval by the board of directors. [...] 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 . . .
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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