Cards to play in Jupiter

By Sean Kernan
September 6, 2002

Florida State League fans will be able to double their pleasure next year in Jupiter, Fla., because the complex there will be home to two franchises.

The Cardinals have bought the Rangers’ FSL team in Charlotte and will move their high Class A affiliate from the Carolina League back to Florida. The organization had a team in St. Petersburg from 1966-96, but sold the team after Tampa Bay got an expansion franchise.

The Rangers sold the FSL team because they’re moving their spring training base to Surprise, Ariz., next year. The Cardinals already hold spring training in Jupiter, so the move of the FSL team leaves the Charlotte complex empty for now.

“The operation of a Florida State League team at our spring training complex will give us added flexibility throughout the year with respect to our minor league operations and will give us rehabilitation opportunities for players at all levels of our organization,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said.

The new team will be identified as Palm Beach in order to avoid confusion in the FSL East standings. The Cardinals will announce a nickname later. The Jupiter Hammerheads, an affiliate of the Marlins, already play in Roger Dean Stadium, which opened in 1998 as the spring training home of the Cardinals and Expos. Next spring the Marlins will move their camp to Jupiter and the Expos will take over the Marlins’ former home in Melbourne.

“The arrangement should provide some savings for both the Cardinals and the Marlins,” Cardinals chairman Fred Hanser said.

The FSL will have about 150 playing dates to get 140 home games–70 for the Cardinals affiliate and 70 for the Hammerheads–in at Roger Dean Stadium. The staff that operates the stadium is ready to take on the challenge.

“We see it as a real opportunity,” said Rob Rabenecker, general manager of Jupiter Stadium Ltd., the entity that runs the stadium and minor league business operations. “We feel the facility can handle it and we plan on adding addition staff. We don’t want to wear out the current staff.”

Rabenecker said a decision already has been made to move all pregame field work to the main practice field behind the stadium in order to help the grounds crew maintain the stadium field. He also said the league might schedule some day-night doubleheaders, noting most teams already play some early games to accommodate special days for schools and summer day camps.

The addition of Palm Beach will also allow the Lakeland Tigers to move back to the FSL West.