Posts Tagged ‘Richmond Braves’

Richmond Moves to Replace Braves

defenders_20081018093305_320_2401As a resident of central Virginia, I have spent a fair amount of time covering the drama surrounding the former Richmond Braves. When the parent club decided to move their triple-A affiliate from Virginia’s capital city to the suburbs of Atlanta itself, Richmond residents were stunned.

The R-Braves, as they were known locally, had been in the area since 1966, so many couldn’t believe their beloved franchise was gone.

Local investors took a deep breath and plunged into the search for a replacement, however. And it’s starting to look like they’ve zeroed in on the next team to call Richmond home.

From the website of Norwich’s WTNH:

According to a Richmond newspaper, the plans call for the Richmond group to buy the Defenders for about $15 million and move the team to Virginia at the end of the 2009 season.

The deal must be approved by the Eastern League and by officials at Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball.

[WTNH-TV]

Virginia hasn’t had a double-A team since I moved here ten years ago, so I’m kind of happy to hear this. It’s kind of like hitting for the cycle, affiliation-wise. The Defenders are tied into the Giants, so that should be an interesting change. Whether the club’s nickname changes or not doesn’t really matter to me, but I do hope they get a new stadium. The Diamond, where the R-Braves used to play, is a concrete eyesore, in my humble opinion. Then again, we don’t want to be wasting big bucks in these economic times do we?

Here’s hoping the sale goes through. It’ll be great to have a new Bus Leagues option near home.

California Earthquake: Teams On The Move

According to a recent article in Baseball America, the High-A California League might be losing a couple of teams. And their loss will be the Carolina League’s gain.

The franchises in question are the Bakersfield Blaze (Rangers) and the High Desert Mavericks (Mariners). Both teams play in antiquated ballparks and struggle to draw enough fans. The article suggests that the Braves’ decision to pull their AAA affiliate out of Richmond might have provided the perfect opening for the transcontinental migration.

Richmond is the hot market available in the minor leagues, with plans for the Braves and the International League to release the territory when the R-Braves move to Gwinnett County in surburban Atlanta. One source said High Desert had the inside track to moving to Richmond, and that Bakersfield would end up in Fayetteville, N.C.; another source said more markets within the Carolina League footprint were under consideration.

“Nothing is set in stone, but do I think it is going to happen? Yes, I think it is going to happen,” one source said. “And I think it should happen.”

[Baseball America]

Further complicating matters for the California League is the decision by the Red Sox to move their high-A club from the geographically nonsensical Lancaster outpost of the California League to the slightly more distant, but less travel-intensive Salem, VA market in the Carolina League.

Some sources say that the league already has a deal in principle, which MiLB denies. The Carolina League bylaws stipulate a $1.5 million payment for each club that wishes to enter what is currently an eight-team league with a tight geographical locus.

As a resident of central Virginia, all of this sounds good to me, though I can’t imagine that a single-A franchise is the long-term solution in Richmond. I do feel bad for the California League, but the refusal of some localities to upgrade facilities is the sort of thing that MiLB just won’t abide any more. The Bus Leagues are getting tonier by the minute.

Now Batting For The Atlanta Braves…

Whew, this was close.  I like to get “Now Batting For” posts up within a day or two of a prospect’s debut, if not before, and have updated my Google Alerts in the hopes that it will help improve my promptness.  One hundred alerts means one hundred emails a day, however, which can be impossible to sift through…which is how I missed Brandon Jones’ 2008 debut for a full 48ish hours after it happened.

Jones was brought up to the Braves from the AAA affiliate in Richmond at the end of last week, despite a .263 average and just two homeruns and 25 RBI in 2007.  He has responded with six hits in his first thirteen at-bats, including his first major league homerun, a solo shot off Ervin Santana on Saturday.

Atlanta’s fourth-ranked prospect and number 70 overall, Jones made his major league debut with the Braves last season, hitting .158 in five September games.  He was originally drafted by Atlanta in the 24th round of the 2003 draft.

Braves Break Ground in Gwinnett, Richmond Remains in Limbo

This is a story I’ve been following with great interest, because the AAA Richmond Braves are the closest MiLB team to my home. The Atlanta Braves organization has already decided to pull their top affiliate from the city of Richmond, VA, and move it to Gwinnett, a suburb of Atlanta. I’d be the first to admit that Richmond could have done more to keep the team around, but I find it odd that the Braves are basically going to be competing for Atlanta-area entertainment dollars with their own minor-league affiliate.

Regardless, they finally broke ground on a new stadium, and appear to be proceeding with the plan to move:

In 2009, the Braves will move their top affiliate from its longtime home in Richmond, Va., to a new stadium about 36 miles northeast of Turner Field. The Gwinnett park will have a capacity of 10,099, including room for 2,300 on a berm beyond the outfield wall.

[Gwinnett Daily Post]

Hope that works out for them.

But what of Virginia’s capital city, soon to be bereft of baseball? While many people love The Diamond, I have to admit that I have always referred to it as a concrete mausoleum – it doesn’t have a lot of personality, and it’s too big, so it always seems empty. I suppose the city could use it to lure in a team that wanted to move right away, but it doesn’t seem like a long-term solution at all.

The biggest problem, however, is that the city has very little control over the process of luring their next baseball partner. First off, MiLB won’t award them a new franchise until they are dead certain that the Braves’ new nest in Gwinnett is properly feathered. In other words, if Gwinnett has stadium delays, the league could force Atlanta to host yet another lame-duck season – boy, won’t that go over well with the fans!

On top of that, it’s new MiLB prez Pat O’Conner who is reading the applications from teams willing to move, and he who will be deciding who gets the nod.

Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner will field applications from all teams interested in moving to Richmond. O’Conner will determine what team and what classification level best fit Richmond. If no one wants the franchise offered by O’Conner, that’s fine. Life will go on.

It probably will go on without professional baseball in the area, though.

Rejecting O’Conner’s first offer does not open the area for anyone willing to move another team here. It does not mean some local citizen with deep pockets and a love for baseball can buy a team and play ball here in 2009.

The most important words to remember from Minor League Baseball are, ” . . . the club or league whose application is approved may still have rights to the Richmond territory under Minor League Baseball rules.”

[InRich.com]

As a fan, I wouldn’t mind an AA club instead of triple-A. But then again, I live 50 miles away, so my civic pride isn’t on the line. I must admit, however, that I was amazed that nobody from the area gets any say in the decision. As the article above points out, money doesn’t even talk in these situations. It’s all in the hands of a baseball executive in Florida. I don’t believe that Mr. O’Conner will intentionally screw the city, but there’s no doubt in my mind that at least a consultation with someone from central Virginia might help him make the right decision. Even if it’s just on an informal basis.

I will, of course, monitor the situation, and keep you all on the edges of your seats with future updates.

Baseball and Pancakes – What More Could a Fan Want?

Any time I read about some intrepid soul venturing out to see as many baseball games as possible, I get a little bit jealous. But when I read about an RV that will be hitting 60+ minor-league ballparks across the United States, and also chowing on pancakes, I just have to write about it.

It seems that the International House of Pancakes will be celebrating a 50th anniversary soon. To share the wealth, they’ve loaded up that beautiful machine you see above, and they’ll be driving cross-country bringing breakfast joy to the bus leagues. They’ll be driving over 8,000 miles before it’s all said and done, and in this time of spiraling gas prices, that’s true dedication.

The Pancake Express (my choice of name) will hand out T-shirts, sponsor games, and enter fans in a sweepstakes as part of the celebration of their half-century of “breakfast any time”. As a guy who has a five-year-old with a pancake jones, I’m most excited about the 2-for-1 coupons they’ll be offering, as well as the nine new pancake flavors. In addition, the “Most Valuable Pancake” mascot will be along for the ride, so I’m really, really hoping they make it to Montgomery, AL so the Pancake can meet the Biscuit.

We do know the first few stops of the tour. Jacksonville Suns (Dodgers) fans will get the first taste:

May 31/June 1 – Mobile BayBears @ Jacksonville Suns (7:05/3:05pm). The Suns are giving away emergency lamps on Saturday and having wooden bat day for the first 1,500 kids through the gates on Sunday.

June 2 – Rome Braves @ Charleston RiverDogs 7:05pm.

June 5/6 – Pawtucket Red Sox @ Charlotte Knights (both 7:15 starts). Might Justin Masterson pitch? Sweeter than syrup!

June 7/8 – Charlotte Knights @ Durham Bulls (7:05/5:05). The Knights are going to be eating a LOT of pancakes, if I’m any judge.

June 12-14 – Charlotte Knights @ Norfolk Tides (Thursday and Friday 7:15 starts) and Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees (Saturday 7:15). See what I mean about the Knights? It’s like they’re following the Pancake Express on purpose.

June 16/17 – Charlotte Knights @ Richmond Braves (7pm on Monday, double-header starting at 1pm on Tuesday). Getting mighty greedy, Knights. That’s all I can say.

Starting Monday, IHOP will be running a sweepstakes on their website, and putting up photos and tracking the progress of the Pancake Express. Check back to see when they’ll be in your neighborhood.

Oh, and please pass the syrup?

AAA Spotlight: Rehab Start Edition 4/25/2008

We started this blog right at the end of the season last year, so we didn’t have a lot of posts before we went into hibernation. But one that did attract attention was a post about the new Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Phillies), who opened play this season. The nickname alone is noteworthy, but as I perused the roster, I found something even better – it turns out Kris Benson is an Iron Pig. My favorite part of his official bio is this offhand remark: “Married, wife’s name is Anna”. I wonder if the offer to sleep with all of his teammates if/when Kris cheats still applies in triple-A? [Iron Pigs Baseball]

And, speaking of washed up, Mike Hampton will be coming to Richmond (Braves) soon, trying to make his way back to the parent club. [MiLb.com]

And, the Red Sox hope Bartolo Colon will be ready to play for the Pawtucket club on Cinco de Mayo. I can’t decide if that’s racist or not. [MiLB.com]

Tony Gwynn, Jr. just got back from Nashville, and he’s not havin’ it. “You get a taste of this, and then you go back down there and realize why you don’t want to go back down there,” Gwynn said. “It’s the big leagues! It’s kind of self explanatory.” Hey! Some of us like it down here. [MiLB.com]

And, you’ve already read OMDQ’s ode to Curtis Granderson, and his advice for Scott Kazmir, who both spent some time slumming it with the rest of us this past week.

That’s it! See you next week!

Spotlight on AAA Ball – 4/11/2008

The new owners of the Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners) talk about the challenges of working in a 48-year-old stadium. And, Braves fans of both the Richmond and Atlanta varieties will probably be interested to hear what it’s like to operate a team’s AAA affiliate within driving distance of the parent club. [Tacoma Daily Index]

In case you don’t know what I was referencing in the above link, the Atlanta Braves have decided to move their AAA affiliate from Richmond, VA to the suburbs of… Atlanta. The good news is that even as the R-Braves play their final lame-duck season in the Virginia capital, local businessmen are looking to bring in something new. [inRich.com]

Good news in Indianapolis – the Pirates have extended their player development contract with the Indians until 2012. [pirates.com]

I can’t be the only one bothered by this. I read through this press release from the Buffalo Bisons (Indians), drooling all the while over the food specials on offer. Until I realized that wings were not mentioned even once. No wings in Buffalo? A travesty, sirs. You can expect to hear from my lawyer. [Bisons Homepage]

DUDE! Did you hear who will be playing at AT&T Bricktown Park?!? The Oklahoma Redhawks (Rangers)!!! Oh, and some dillweed named Dave Matthews will be there on August 13th, if you’re into that kind of thing. [RedHawks Homepage]

I hear the kids don’t go to the rave-parties any more. But if they did, wouldn’t you want all of them to be wearing this hat? [Las Vegas 51s Shop]

I can go on mining press releases and websites forever like this – there’s plenty going on. But if you have a tip we should check out, email us a busleagues at gmail dot com.