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Brett Brings Verve To The Futures Game Manager Job

Will Lingo -Premium Content

The job of Futures Game manager is largely a ceremonial one, an opportunity for Major League Baseball to pay a small tribute to a past hero of the game. The managers often have local ties, as World manager Guillermo Hernandez did this year, returning to the city where he had his greatest success. But United States manager George Brett was too busy to get his pat on the back. Looking to interview George before the game? He's around the batting cage, watching his charges take batting practice and dispensing advice. Hoping for a photo op? Sorry, George is throwing BP to the fourth group. Brett is one of the only Futures Game managers ever to throw BP. That's not to say Brett made like Tony La Russa. He delegated most of the actual work to his coaches, who were minor league managers and much more familiar with the players than he was.

Minors | #2005#Column

Hard Work Helps Futures Game Grow

Will Lingo -Premium Content

The Futures Game has become one of the best events in baseball, going through a few growing pains since debuting in 1999 to become a fixture in the mental datebook of the serious fan. Most of you have just noticed the steady parade of prospects who have added their names to the Futures Game alumni roster, usually on their way to the major leagues and greater success. And that's as it should be. The hours of hard work by those of us behind the scenes is supposed to go unnoticed, as long as we provide a few hours of quality baseball entertainment for you.

Minors | #2005#Column

Base Closings Even Affect Minors

Will Lingo -Premium Content

Minor league teams tend to avoid getting involved in politics. But when a political issue lands right in your backyard, it's hard not to jump into the fray. A Pentagon commission has recommended closing the Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn. On the Thames River in southeastern Connecticut, it is the Navy's first submarine base, receiving its first four submarines in 1915 and now serving as the home of 16 nuclear submarines. Just up the river from the submarine base is Dodd Stadium, home of the Norwich Navigators. General manager Keith Hallal said the team started talking about ideas to rally the community around the base last fall, when rumors first circulated about the base being targeted for closure.

Minors | #2005#Column

West Tenn Faces Uphill Battle For Fans

Will Lingo -Premium Content

The West Tenn Diamond Jaxx were averaging a little more than 1,500 fans a game this season, almost half of the average of the teams just ahead of them in the league attendance standings and light years away from Jacksonville, which leads the league with about 6,000 fans a game. It's the continuation of a sad decline in Jackson, Tenn., which has lost almost all of the enthusiasm it had when the team debuted in 1998. The franchise has faced a series of setbacks since then, from a contentious relationship between former owner David Hersh and the city to a flirtation with moving last offseason.

Minors | #2005#Column

Minor Teams Always Make Do

Will Lingo -Premium Content

When it rains at a minor league ballpark, the entire staff usually gets out on the field to pull the tarp. If there's a bunch of pizza left over at the end of the night, many teams will send employees into the stands to sell it off at a bargain price. When one team is displaced from its park after a catastrophic event like a hurricane, other teams are happy to help out. Minor league adaptability is not a new phenomenon, of course.

Minors | #2005#Column

New Teams Keep Texas League Crowds Rolling In

Will Lingo -Premium Content

After last season, Texas League president Tom Kayser knew his league would have to move forward without its flagship franchise. The Round Rock Express, arguably the best Double-A franchise ever, would move up to the Pacific Coast League in 2005. The league might never find one franchise that's the equal of the Express, but its combination of two new franchises might mean the league is even better. The Corpus Christi Hooks have replaced the Express, and the former El Paso Diablos have moved to Springfield, Mo., and become the Cardinals. And while it's still early, both franchises were averaging better than 7,000 fans a night in April. Round Rock (9,846 a night) and El Paso (3,422) averaged a little over 13,000 fans combined last year.

Minors | #2005#Column

Nightmare In Portland Nearing An End

Will Lingo -Premium Content

The Pacific Coast League may finally be ready to emerge from its Portland quagmire. The league has a buyer for the team lined up and has hired a new president/general manager for the operation. The process of closing the deal will still be complicated, but by the end of the season the Portland Beavers will be a healthy franchise again.

Minors | #2005#Column

Greenville Starts Over With Bombers

Will Lingo -Premium Content

Greenville, S.C., was without minor league baseball for about five months before it found a team to replace the Greenville Braves. Local fans will hardly notice because the new team will take the field at Municipal Stadium on Opening Day. The Southern League franchise has moved south and will take up residence in Pearl, Miss., as the Mississippi Braves this season. And after Minor League Baseball decided in February who could take over the Greenville territory, the former Capital City Bombers have driven the moving trucks up Interstate 26 from Columbia, S.C.

Minors | #2005#Column

Tulsa Celebrates A Century Of Baseball

Will Lingo -Premium Content

The Texas League's Tulsa Drillers will celebrate the 100th anniversary of baseball in the city with a year's worth of promotions and remembrances in 2005. The Tulsa Oilers took the field in the Class C Missouri Valley League in 1905; Oklahoma became a state two years later. Baseball in Tulsa has been tied to the oil industry from the beginning, which is appropriate because the city is so intimately tied to oil as well. The city's team has been known as the Oilers and Drillers in all but one of its seasons—1914, when it was called the Producers, still another oil tie.

Minors | #2005#Column

Mayor Looks For Ballpark Tenants

Will Lingo -Premium Content

Ozark, Mo., a city with a practically new ballpark, has no team to play in it. This trend could grow in the coming years, as the ballpark arms race escalates and cities find out the park they just built won't cut it anymore.

Minors | #2005#Column