Mike McCann / Minor Leagues
FEW CHANGES FOR 2006
By Mike McCann
Each year, there is some movement of teams in minor league baseball, but 2006 seems to be an exceptionally slow year. Affiliation changes occur with the odd years, so the even years won't be as exciting, but there are often still a few teams changing locations, or at least moving into new stadiums. For 2006, you should expect things to be very similar to 2005.
There is only one team that has announced a move for the 2006 season, the New Jersey Cardinals. They will be playing in State College, PA as the State College Spikes. State College had been building a stadium at Penn State University to play in the NY-Penn League for the 2006 season, but didn't have a team lined up until after the 2005 season ended.
The New Jersey Cardinals had been drawing fairly well, but Skylands Park in Augusta, NJ, was not well taken care of. The stadium was not being kept up to necessary standards, so the team was sold and moved. There were rumors that an independent Canadian-American League team may be moving in for the 2006 season, but right now, that seems unlikely. There is a definite possibility that a team may want to move in for the 2007 season, but Skylands Park will need some improvement in the meantime.
A new stadium will be opening in Greenville, SC for the Greenville Drive (called the Bombers in 2005). The team moved from Columbia, SC for the 2005 season playing temporarily in Greenville Municipal Stadium until the new stadium was completed for 2006. Municipal Stadium opened in 1984, but the lure of a new stadium caused the Greenville Braves of the Southern League to move to Mississippi in 2005. The only way for Greenville to again have a team was to build a new stadium, so with the promise of a new stadium, the Bombers moved from Columbia (where they were unable to obtain a new stadium deal) to Greenville.
A new stadium is being built in Allentown, PA which is scheduled to open in 2008. The Ottawa Lynx are rumored to be the team moving to Allentown. Recently, there have been talks of the Phillies changing their AAA affiliation from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to Allentown for the 2007 season after their PDC expires. This makes some sense, but I don't know where the team would play in 2007 since the stadium isn't scheduled to be completed until the following season. Since the Phillies would replace the Orioles affiliation, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Orioles switch to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, since they have been trying to move their affiliate closer.
A few teams will have new names for the 2006 season as well:
The Salt Lake Stingers are now the Salt Lake Bees, a tribute to the former name of the Pacific Coast League franchise in Salt Lake City.
The Norwich Navigators are now the Connecticut Defenders.
The Greenville Bombers are now the Greenville Drive, giving the team its own identity since it didn't have time to change its name last year.
The Vermont Expos are now the Vermont Lake Monsters, breaking from the Expos moniker now that they don't exist. And for those who follow minor league hockey, don't get them confused with the AHL's Lowell Lock Monsters like I'm sure I will.
There could still be a little more movement for the 2006 season since there is still about 3 months before play begins, but it appears like minor league baseball franchises are remaining put for this year.
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