Mike McCann / Minor Leagues
LAST CHANCE IN 2003
By Mike McCann
Each season, a number of minor league baseball franchises move to different cities and/or new ballparks. I've gotten a few e-mails about which teams would be leaving their current stadiums after the 2003 season, so this article will be on that topic. I'll talk about the stadiums which will most likely no longer be used for minor league baseball after this season and some rumors about possible moves in the future. I'm going to try to visit a few of these teams myself, so I try to stay on top of things.
I have to start with the late breaking information applicable to the 2003 season. It was announced on Monday, March 24 (less than two weeks before the season starts) that the South Georgia Waves of the South Atlantic League would be moving to Columbus, GA for this season. They will be playing in Golden Park where the Columbus Redstixx played through the 2002 season, until they moved to Eastlake, OH and became the Lake County Captains for the 2003 season.
For those that don't have a scorecard to keep track of this South Atlantic League franchise, I'll provide a quick history. In order to give each major league franchise a High A and Low A affiliate, the Florida State League dropped two teams (Kissimmee and St. Petersburg) and the South Atlantic League added two teams (Lexington and Wilmington, NC) for the 2001 season. I won't get into the part about how Oakland and Houston didn't follow these guidelines, as that's another story. The Los Angeles Dodgers chose to keep their Florida State League affiliate, Vero Beach Dodgers, and drop its California League affiliate, San Bernardino Stampede. As a result, they acquired the Wilmington Waves as their Low A affiliate. The team played at the UNC-Wilmington campus for one season until the team was purchased by David Heller and promptly moved to Albany, Ga to play as the South Georgia Waves for the 2002 season. During this past offseason, Heller announced that he would be moving the team to Evansville, IN for the 2004 season. As he couldn't agree to a lease with the city of Albany for use of a stadium for this season, the team will be playing in Columbus. So if you were hoping to see a game in Albany this year, you are out of luck. But if you missed your opportunity to see Golden Park last season, you received a one season reprieve.
Besides Evansville, there are a few other moves that are pretty definite for the 2004 season. The Orlando Rays will be moving to Montgomery, AL in 2004. There is an excellent article in the March 22 edition of the Montgomery Advertiser concerning the role that the team's nickname plays in profit from merchandise. It is also pretty likely that the New Haven Ravens will be moving to Manchester, NH in 2004. I don't think that they have received all of the official approvals yet, but it's probably going to happen.
I have other news that I've heard about from credible sources concerning other possible moves of teams in the future. But please do not hold me to this as there is a large chance that none of this will happen. I will most likely not be able to recall where I got most of this information, so please do not ask. This is just the friendly disclaimer so as not to be responsible when teams decide to stay put. I found this out the hard way when I reported that the Orlando Rays were moving to Tallahassee a few years ago, but they instead stayed put with their new stadium (although its ironic, they are really leaving this time).
I've been hearing for a while that the Orioles want to move their AAA International League team to York, PA. Now that they are affiliated with Ottawa, which has been rumored to be moving for a while, it seems like it might happen sometime in the next few years.
For 2005, Round Rock wants to get the Astros AAA Pacific Coast League team while moving the Astros AA Texas League team to Corpus Christi, TX. A likely team to move to Round Rock is the Tacoma Rainiers or the Portland Beavers (even if the Montreal Expos don't move there). Reno, NV is also making a push to get a Pacific Coast League team. Baton Rouge, LA would like to get a Texas League team.
The Boston Red Sox have been wanting to move their Florida State League affiliate from Sarasota to Ft. Myers for a while. They attempted to do this during this past offseason, but were unsuccessful. This team would not play in the same stadium as the Twins affiliate, the Ft. Myers Miracle. There is also a chance that a team may want to move to Pt. Charlotte where the Rangers affiliate played up until last season.
There have been rumors about some California League teams moving. The High Desert Mavericks almost moved to Rohnert Park, CA and the Visalia Oaks almost moved to Chico, CA. But since the Visalia stadium is being upgraded, that now seems unlikely. But there is the chance that their could be some movement with those teams.
Danbury, CT is looking to get a minor league team and one of the possibilities is the Savannah Sand Gnats of the South Atlantic League further extending the joke about how the South Atlantic League will span the entire country. Savannah could lose its team if they don't get a new stadium. The Greensboro Suns fall into this category as well. The same holds true for the Hagerstown Suns, but they just signed a deal to stay there through the 2004 season. A new stadium is being built for the Charleston Alley Cats of the South Atlantic League for the 2004 season. When Evansville was trying to get a team, some other possibilities were Hagerstown or the Michigan Battle Cats of the Midwest League, so don't be too surprised if those teams end up somewhere else in the next few years.
The Provo Angels of the Pioneer League are also complaining about getting a new stadium.
This is all I can think of right now, so I hope you enjoy reading it. If you have any interest in seeing teams before they move on or build a new stadium, these would be some of the teams I would target. But any of the older stadiums are always candidates to get replaced.
I was thinking about putting this kind of information on my website, so if you would be interested in reading these kinds of things and/or would be willing to contribute to a rumor page, let me know what you think. Another Baseball Guru, Joe Mock, does have this type of information on his website, baseballparks.com, so I'd recommend taking a look at that as well.
I am always looking for topics to write about, so please send me an email and let me know what would be interesting reading for you. Feel free to ask any questions or give an idea for a column.