Friday, August 03, 2007

NYSL to NYC ???

Apparently the saga of the New York State League is not over. While an official announcement or press release never came from the league, when play stopped after just two weeks, it was assumed that the league had folded. But hold on. Last week, a message was posted on the NYSL website that indicated that they would be back in 2008, this time playing in New York City. No word yet on what facilities they plan to use, but I think Fleming Field (former home of the Yonkers Hoot Owls) is probably available. Call me a skeptic, but I'll be surprised if we actually see this league again.

Monday, July 23, 2007

There Goes Another ...

In my earlier blog posting about new independent leagues, I failed to mention the New York State League, which planned to have all four member teams playing at Munrane Field in Utica, NY. Well the league didn't last long. After just two weeks of play, the league has folded. This league seemed ill conceived from the start. Utica has never been a "hotbed" of professional sports, especially recently when the local economy has really been hurting. And it's not like other leagues have been clamoring to get into Utica recently. I'm really not sure what Jay Acton, who founded the league, was expecting. Even if they were losing money (apparently upwards of $10k per day), he should have had enough capital to get them through the 2 month season. If he didn't, then he never should have started the league.

Acton should have know better. Some 20 years ago (in 1987) he tried a similar experiment on Long Island with the Empire State League. That also failed after just one season. Did he think that was an idea ahead of its time ? Who knows, but this latest failed experiment has only accomplished one thing - to poison the Utica market even further. The citizens there have been through many failed pro franchises in the past, but this may be the last. Jay Acton can blame the people all he wants for not coming out, but ultimately he's responsible for the failure of the league. Shame on him.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Quick Comments on My Southern Swing

Have returned from my first ballpark trip of the summer. Saw games in 9 different parks, 7 of them being new for me. Here are some quick comments on each. Full reviews and photos will be posted to over the coming weeks, so keep checking back.

City Stadium (Lynchburg, VA) - I had visited the ballpark in 1999 before the extensive renovations. I was happy to see that the changes had not ruined the basic structure. There is still a large roof over most of the grandstand, yet the concourse has been widened and more comfortable seating installed. I wonder why new ballparks couldn't be built the same way.

Coastal Federal Field (Myrtle Beach, SC) - didn't expect much going in as the photos I'd seen made it look like Rome and Lexington, neither of which I liked. But this park is better than both of those. Lots of places to roam and some interesting features (i.e. The Beach). Despite almost no local flavor (since everyone is a tourist there), I enjoyed the atmosphere.

Jackie Robinson Ballpark (Daytona Beach, FL) - a real gem. I don't care for the big bleacher section which doesn't fit with the cozy grandstand, but overall I like this place a lot. Recent renovations have added a wide concourse (where a road used to be) and new seating under the grandstand. Great views of the water and a bridge just add to the beauty.

Ed Smith Stadium (Sarasota, FL) - probably one of the worst minor league experiences I've witnessed. The ballpark is cold and sterile and nobody comes to the games. It makes for quite a depressing place to see a game.

Brighthouse Networks Field (Clearwater, FL) - I'm sure it's a great spring training venue, but as with most of the FSL parks, it is simply too big for the small crowds. It's location along busy Rt 19 is its only detriment.

Legends Field (Tampa, FL) - ditto my comments on Brighthouse. With such sparse crowds for FSL games, this place is quite depressing. Fortunately I have seen a spring training game here as well when the atmosphere is quite lively.

Joker Marchant Park (Lakeland, FL) - tucked away in central Florida, this park feels like what spring training is supposed to be like. And even for FSL games, it's not too bad. The crowds are sparse but lively and the team really seems to be trying to create an old-time atmosphere.

Lake Olmstead Stadium (Augusta, FL) - finally got back here after getting rained out in 1999. A bit too much self promotion from Cal Ripken (he now owns the team), but overall a nice experience. The ballpark is truly unique, the setting serene, and the atmosphere laid back.

First Horizon Park (Greensboro, NC) - a nice new ballpark tucked into the downtown, but the atmosphere is over the top and crowds trend toward the hip side (i.e. non-baseball fans). Good thing the normal on field DJ (Spaz) wasn't there, or the atmosphere would have even been worse.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The New Leagues

There are a two new independent leagues which will be getting off the ground in '07 - the South Coast League and the Continental Baseball League. The SCL would seem to have a good base to start from as 5 of the 6 cities have hosted professional baseball and they have some quality facilities to play in. Also, they have been able to procure some recognizable managers with Wally Backman, Phil Plantier, and indy league legend Jackie Hernandez each taking the helm of a team. But how will attendance be ? They aren't in any big metropolitan areas and teams in Florida (i.e. the Florida State League) do not have a good track record for drawing fans. I think there is room for an independent league in the south, but whether the SCL has identified the right markets is an open question.

I'm a lot more skeptical about the CBL (especially since they aren't even recognized on OurSportsCentral). They only have three real teams (the fourth is a traveling team) and their facilities appear to be nothing better than high school fields. Two of the teams will be in the Dallas area, while the third will be in the Houston suburbs. Good markets no doubt, but with lousy facilities and no publicity, it's hard to imagine this league surviving too long. Perhaps they are trying to resurrect the early days of indy ball when leagues were thrown together based on where they could find fields, not whether they would be good markets.

Despite my skepticism, I'll be rooting for both leagues to succeed, as having more indy leagues is always a good thing.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A New Season Arrives

While the weather in the northeast this past weekend was more suitable for football than baseball, I was able to take in my first game of the season. After the New Hampshire Fisher Cats get snowed out on Thursday and Friday, I wasn't so sure they would be able to play on Saturday. But the snow was removed and the field was dry by game time. It's the first time I've ever seen snow in the stands at a game I've been to. As a gesture to the fans who came out and braved the elements, the team offered free tickets to another game this year.

One of my complaints in the past of Stadium has been the lack of a scoreboard that displays the linescore. Fortunately the team has finally rectified this problem by erecting a manual scoreboard in the left field fence. Sitting along the first base line, I found that this was the only scoreboard I needed to look at. No other noticeable changes at the ballpark for '07. Parking is still an outrageous $10, but fortunately there is plenty of on street parking to be had.

As for the game, it featured more offense that I would have expected in 37 degree weather. The Fisher Cats defeated the Rock Cats, 7-6 in a game that featured four home runs, all hit over the short right field porch.

Hopefully next weekend will be a bit warmer ...

Friday, February 09, 2007

Pulaski Gets Screwed

The Appalachian League announced today that the league would operate with only 9 teams in 2007, which means Pulaski has been left out in the cold. After spending $1.5 million over the past decade to renovate Calfee Park, the city of Pulaski is now left without a team for at least one summer. This does not seem right. Is MLB that poor that they couldn't foot the expense of fielding a co-op team for one year while the league tried to find a new affiliate for '08 ? I'm sure the cost of running an App League team for one year wouldn't exceed the cost of a major league pinch hitter. The way Pulaski has been treated by the Blue Jays and MLB is a real slap in the face. First the Blue Jays said they were cutting affiliates, but then recently announced that would be putting a team in Gulf Coast League. So clearly they lied to Pulaski and the Appy League - and for what ? Just to save a few dollars ? Hopefully this serves as a warning sign to other cities that are threatened by MLB to pour money into their ballparks. Without some assurances of a team staying long term, cities need to start saying no. The Appalachian League provides one of the purest experiences in minor league baseball, but this kind of treatment from MLB could changes things in the future. I certainly hope not, but anytime a small city like Pulaski gets screwed, it's not a good sign. Here's hoping a new affiliate can be found for Pulaski in '08.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A New Park for the P-Nats ?

Might Potomac might actually be getting a new park ? After many years of talk, it appears now that it might be on the horizon for 2008. Usually I'm not a big advocate of new ballparks, but this is one place that sorely needs one. After attending a game at Pfitzner Stadium in 1999, it was evident that this is a miserable place to take in a game. It's amazing that fans came out at all, especially on hot nights like the one I experienced. I have never seen so much sweat as I did that July4th evening in Woodbridge. The DC suburbs deserve a decent minor league ballpark, so hopefully by 2008 they will finally have one.