New Outlook In Akron
Ken Babby buys Aeros
CLEVELAND—While Double-A Akron has been a four-time Eastern League champion on the field since arriving at Canal Park in 1997, the franchise has spent the last five years in a downward spiral.
With out-of-state owners who never connected with the community and didn't believe in spending money to draw more fans, the Indians affiliate went from first in the 12-team EL in attendance to ninth as the initial excitement of having a minor league team in town wore off.
Finally, after years of jokes about being the cheapest franchise in the league, the Aeros image is in the midst of a renovation under the new ownership of Ken Babby. After a season of watching the franchise from behind the scenes, Babby officially became the second owner of the Aeros in October, when the Akron city council approved of a 25-year lease extension at Canal Park.
"It is a tremendous honor to become the next owner of the Akron Aeros," said Babby, 32, after purchasing the team for an undisclosed price from the father-son duo of Mike and Greg Agganis. "Our desire is for the Aeros to exemplify all of the values that the city of Akron stands for; hard work, family and community."
What has already drawn interest in Babby this offseason is his outgoing personality and how quickly he transplanted himself to the Rubber City.
"Our entire focus will be on creating a fan experience that is truly exciting and memorable, while also maximizing our opportunities to become difference makers in the community both socially and economically," said Babby, who will seek local investors.
• The Indians acquired infielder Mike Aviles and catcher/infielder Yan Gomes from the Blue Jays in exchange for righthander Esmil Rogers. Aviles, 31, batted .250 with 13 HR as the Red Sox starting shortstop last season. Gomes, 25, spent the majority of 2012 season with Triple-A Las Vegas, where he batted .328 with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs in 79 games.
• The Indians have invited righthander Hector Rondon and switch-hitting infielder Luis Hernandez to spring training with the big league club. Rondon, 24, was one of the Indians' top pitching prospects before two elbow injuries cost him a majority of the last three years. Hernandez, 28, hit .262/.303/.376 with 70 RBIs for Triple-A Round Rock last year and appeared in two games with the Rangers.