We just put our latest issue to bed yesterday afternoon–which includes a fascinating cover story by Jim Callis and Will Lingo on the best, and worst, draft classes of all time–and will try and get caught up n some business-related news.
Here are some headlines from around the baseball community:
• The Israel Baseball League is shutting down after one season due to financial problems that include the IBL’s failure to pay creditors.
"2008 is not happening, 2009 we’re working on," Israel Association of Baseball president Haim Katz told the Jerusalem Post. "Right now it’s [nearly] the first of June, and there’s no preparation. But there are many parties interested in reviving professional baseball [in Israel]."
The league drew much fanfare but was plagued by financial and operational problems in its debut last year. Founded by Boston businessman and organized by former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette, the IBL suffered through poor attendance in 2007 as well as logistical problems–games were canceled due to poor lighting and former Yankees pitcher Ken Hotzman quit managing a team with a week remaining in the season because he was unhappy with the league, The Post reported.
• Officials in Gwinnett County, Ga. (the future home of the Triple-A Richmond Braves) said that stadium construction remains on schedule to open in time for Opening Day 2009. County officials issued a development permit authorizing utility work and other site improvements at the 12-acre site of the future ballpark, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.
An official said that the grading of the playing surface and surrounding areas of the stadium is complete. Construction of the stadium and any retail buildings surrounding it have not begun.
• Sarasota city officials continue to pursue luring the Red Sox to town for spring training, causing Fort Myers officials to take notice and begin formulating a plan to retain the team. Sarasota is offering the Sox a $70 million, 12,000-seat brand new ballpark–potentially the most expensive spring training site in Florida. The deal is roughly $30 million more than the city offered the Reds to keep them in town.
• An interesting story in the Dallas Morning News discusses how pleased the Rangers are to have its Double-A affiliate within spitting distance in nearby Frisco. The close proximity not only allows front office officials like GM Jon Daniels to get an easy first-hand look at prospects, but also means that injured players no longer have to travel far for rehab assignments.
This may very well become a trend in minor league baseball. One of the attractions for the Braves in relocating to Gwinnett–beyond having a new ballpark built by taxpayers–is having its Triple-A affiliate located just an hour or so away. The Morning News reports that the Rangers are one of five major league teams within 50 miles of a high-level affiliate. Only Baltimore and Seattle have affiliates closer than the 36 miles separating Rangers Ballpark in Arlington from Frisco.
• Triple-A Buffalo received a warm reception during its recent road trip to Columbus as speculation continues whether the Indians affiliate will be moving into Columbus’ new ballpark next season.
"It’s almost like a home game when we’re there," Bisons manager Tony Lovullo told the Toledo Blade. "Our players are definitely recognized by first name. There’s definitely a connection."
•The Rookie-level Dominican Summer League promoted vice president Orlando Diaz to the position of president, Minor League Baseball announced today. Diaz has been with the league for 24 years and will take over all day-to-day operations. Diaz replaces Freddy Jana, who served as league president from 1985 until he passed away in 2007.
• Baseball and flapjacks, an all-American combination, will come together at minor league ballparks around the country this summer. The International House of Pancakes is hitting the road to tour 61 minor league cities and spread some breakfast cheer. In conjunction with Minor League Baseball, the IHOP Discover America Road Tour is launching May 31 with stops in Double-A Jacksonville, low Class A Charleston and Triple-Durham.
IHOP will pass out pancake-related baseball cards with coupons attached at the ballparks and the Most Valuable Pancake mascot will be on hand to entertain fans. The tour, which celebrates IHOP’s 50th anniversary, will continue into early September.