With the Nationals leaving Brevard County’s Space Coast Stadium as a spring training home, the future of the ballpark’s high Class A Florida State League tenant has been up in the air.
It appears Osceola County, Fla., has provided the answer. The Osceola News-Gazette reported Thursday that the Astros’ spring training home park in Kissimmee will once again become home to an FSL franchise starting in 2017.
Don Miers, the county’s director of events and facilities confirmed the move to Baseball America.
“We have cleared all our hurdles. The deal’s been in place for a while, but it had to get tweaked at the end to get our county manager to sign off on it, but yes, it’s definitely happening,” Miers said. “We will in 2017.”
Miers wouldn’t name which team would be moving into Osceola County Stadium in 2017, but common sense makes the Brewers the likely choice. Just two Florida State League teams have Player Development Contracts that expire after the 2016 season–the Rays in Port Charlotte and the Brewers in Brevard County.
The Rays have their big league spring training site and minor league development complex in Port Charlotte, so moving wouldn’t make sense in their case. The Brewers, however, have their spring training and minor league development complex in Maryvale, Ariz., so their ties to Brevard County aren’t as strong as the Rays’ are in Port Charlotte.
The last hurdles to clear, Miers said, involved the length of initial lease, which will be for three years.
“The term had to go down to three years (for the deal to be completed),” he said. “We do so much amateur stuff. When we lost the (Kissimmee) Cobras after the 2000 season and USSSA moved into its new headquarters, after spring training we do so much amateur stuff.
“And it was just a concern with our tourism industry, if we committed the stadium to 70 nights of minor league baseball, would it hurt the amateur program? And we said, absolutely not, it would enhance it.”
The Astros and Nationals are moving together to a joint spring-training facility being built in Palm Beach County. Space Coast Stadium appears to be losing the Manatees now to Osceola County, where county officials told the News-Gazette that they had agreed to a three-year deal to bring the FSL franchise to Osceola County Stadium.
Now that the deal is official and minor league baseball will be returning to Kissimmee, look for an official announcement from the new tenant soon. There will almost certainly be a name change to add local flavor–Miers suggested the Ospreys, after the birds of prey who nest in light towers across the state, but alas that name is already affixed to the Rookie-level Pioneer League club in Missoula, Mont.–and a corresponding contest to help pick a winner.
The team name and parent franchise aren’t known yet, but one thing is for certain: Minor league baseball will be back in Kissimmee next April.