Richmond Fallout, Williamsport’s New Look and Other News

It hasn’t taken long for teams to begin coveting the Richmond market. A source tells us that two Carolina League clubs have already contacted Richmond about relocating there for 2009. I imagine they won’t be the last.

But before I get to local coverage of Atlanta’s decision to sever its ties to Richmond after 42 years by moving its Triple-A affiliate to Gwinnett, Ga., there are a few other stories worth noting:

• Rookie-level Williamsport plans to unveil a new team identity tomorrow. The New York-Penn League affiliate has been working with Plan B. Branding on new logos, uniforms, caps–the works.

• Double-A Erie sent out a press release to announce a press conference for this afternoon "to make a special announcement regarding the future of the club." An inquiry seeking further explanation of the rather vague e-mail was not returned. Representatives from Mandalay Baseball and the Erie County Convention Authority will be attendance.

• Everything must go at the Great Falls souvenir shop, for beginning next season the team will change its moniker from White Sox to Voyagers. Apparently the nickname Voyagers has some local history. According to the new team Website, Voyagers was chosen because of its connection to Legion Park. In 1950, Nick Mariana, the general manager of the Great Falls Baseball team, filmed two rotating, silvery objects above the ball park. The Mariana film is one of the strongest cases supporting the existence of UFO’s.

But the big news of the week is clearly the departure of the Braves from Richmond. The decision caught Richmond by surprise despite eight years of negotiations to renovate the Diamond or build a new ballpark. The same article mentions two teams have already contacted the city about relocating. Richmond mayor Doug Wilder said this morning on a radio show that the city did not support spending millions of taxpayer dollars for a new ballpark, which does not necessarily jibe with earlier plans. Wilder also talks about being embarrassed by sagging at attendance R-Braves games, notably a playoff game last season: "I looked around and you could have counted the teams, you could have counted the groundskeepers, you could have counted the service people – we didn’t have a thousand people barely. I sat next to [Atlanta Braves Executive Vice President] Mike Plant and I was embarrassed," he said this morning on Lite 98.1 FM.

Meanwhile, Times-Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams takes the city to task for losing the club.

Naturally, the mood is a bit brighter in Gwinnett County, which will build an expected $45 million ballpark for the Braves. The big winners in the deal appear to be the Braves themselves, who will reap most of the profits from the county-built ballpark. Gwinnett County commissioners made a strong push for the team, pulling off in four months what Richmond could not in eight years.