Mike McCann / Minor Leagues
WHERE TO GO IN 2004
By Mike McCann
For me, one of the more interesting topics is always keeping track of minor league franchise movement and making an effort to see teams before they move. One of the best sites for articles which discuss some future possibilities is Ballpark Digest (www.ballparkdigest.com). If you know that you have one last season to see a team, you may go out of your way to see the stadium for one last time. Minor league stadiums are often still used for other purposes after the professional team leaves, but I prefer seeing a minor league baseball game there while I still can. I have compiled a list of teams to see in 2004 because it may be your last opportunity.
The Edmonton Trappers will be moving to Round Rock for the 2005 season, so this will be your last chance to see a Pacific Coast League game there. The independent Northern League is making an effort to expand to Edmonton and Calgary (another former PCL city) for the 2005 season, so you may be able to see professional baseball there after this season after all. Edmonton may not be very convenient for many people since it is furthest from the US-Canada border which is part of the reason that the PCL doesn't want a team there anymore.
The Portland Beavers are now an interesting story. They are becoming the Montreal Expos of the Pacific Coast League. The team currently has no owner and looks like it will be run this season by the league itself. It appears that the team will play in Portland this year as long as an agreement is worked out for stadium usage. I'm not sure what will happen with the team next year though.
For quite a while, I've been talking about how the Ottawa Lynx have very little fan support and the team will soon be moved. It looks like it may actually happen in 2005. There are rumors about the team moving to Harrisburg to replace the Senators of the Eastern League. As for the Senators, I've heard that they may move to the Allentown, PA area or Lexington, KY. If they were to move to Lexington, the Legends would likely move to Bowling Green, KY.
The New Hampshire Fisher Cats will be playing in renovated Gill Stadium for just this year before the new stadium opens. Gill Stadium hosted the previous Manchester teams that played in the Eastern League. It has a somewhat unusual design as the seats do not follow the baselines but instead curve out around home plate leaving a lot of foul territory.
It was just announced that the Greenville Braves will be moving to Pearl, MS (near Jackson) next season. The stadium in Greenville does not meet AA standards and a deal could not be worked out to build a new stadium, so the team announced its intentions to leave. I think that there are a few possible future scenarios for Greenville. The current stadium may be used for a South Atlantic League team. For some reason, Columbus always jumps into my head. Or if they do decide to build a new stadium, the Braves would likely move their AAA affiliate there from Richmond.
A stadium has been built in Springfield, MO which has been promised to have a minor league team in 2005. The team has not been identified yet, but I think the likely candidates are either the El Paso Diablos or Wichita Wranglers. The Texas League doesn't seem to be too excited about Springfield, so we'll see how this works out.
The West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx are sometimes mentioned as having little time left. I've heard rumors that the team may be moved to Baton Rouge.
Since Orlando doesn't have a team anymore since the Rays moved to Montgomery this year, the Florida State League has been eyeing it. I've heard that the Daytona Cubs may be moved to Orlando.
The Stockton Ports will be getting a new stadium for 2005. Billy Hebert
Field won't be hosting professional baseball after this season, so you may
want to check it out while you still can.
The Battle Creek Yankees are expected to be moved sometime in the near future. I've heard Bay City, MI mentioned as the latest rumor. This is in additon to those I've heard about southern Illinois.
The Charleston Alley Cats will be getting a new stadium in 2005. If you'd like to see Watt Powell Park, you'll need to do so this season. I haven't been there myself, so it is one of my priorities for this season.
The Provo Angels will be playing their last season at Brigham Young University in 2004, so it will be your last shot see them before they move to another college campus. The team will be moving to a new stadium at Utah Valley State College in nearby Orem for 2005.
This season, the Martinsville Astros moved to Greeneville, TN to play at a new stadium at Tusculum College. They will play at a temporary field in 2004 with the new field being ready for 2005.
Just a few thoughts on where you may consider seeing a game. I'm going
to make a special effort to see the Pawtucket Red Sox this year as they are
the closest minor league team that I haven't seen. Beginning with 1999,
each season I was able to see the team closest team that I hadn't seen in
previous years, so I need to keep that trend going.
I am always looking for topics to write about, so please send me an e-mail and let me know what would be interesting reading for you. Feel free to ask any questions or give an idea for a column.