03/27/2008 10:00 AM ET
Old meets new in the Eastern League
New mascots, uniforms and faces highlight the league's 86th year
By Danny Wild / Special to MLB.com
Minor League Baseball provides an interesting mix of constant change and long-standing history. As the 2008 season approaches, MiLB.com takes a look at what you can expect in the Eastern League, both new and old.
Life-long fan turns Senators GM
Harrisburg native Randy Whitaker was named general manager of the Senators and wasted little time introducing himself to the public. The 47-year-old former marketing representative launched a blog on the Senators web site that details his history as a baseball fan and community member. "I am a ridiculous Minor League Baseball fan," he wrote in his first entry. "Fan, in this case, is truly derived from fanatic. I have been to hundreds of Senators games over the years, going back to 1990."
Curve signs free agent puppy to long-term deal
Altoona got even younger in January when it signed a seven-week-old yellow Lab named Bob the Baseball Dog. Apparently the Curve front office has little-to-no creativity when it comes to naming a puppy. Altoona said Bob was signed to a "lifetime contract" and claimed his main role with the organization will be to "promote the Curve through his friendly smile, wet nose and wagging tail." The Curve also said he will retrieve bats, foul balls, bring water to umps and eventually have a line of apparel and merchandise for fans.
Mets lose front office member to war effort
Binghamton Mets Director of Stadium Operations Richard Tylicki left the club for the third time in seven years to re-join the United States Army overseas. Tylicki, a captain in the Army and an officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, had previously served in Bosnia and Iraq. The B-Mets hired Doug Ido to take over Tylicki's duties for the next year; Tylicki has worked for the Mets since 1995.
Trenton unveils nameless mascot
Fans have been asked to think of a name for the Trenton Thunder's newest mascot, a somewhat irritated-looking yellow and blue thunderbolt with gloves, yellow legs and black Chuck Taylor sneakers. Trenton already features two well-known mascots -- an enormous blue "Thunderbird" with oversized sunglasses, and Chase, a golden retriever who has his own bobblehead and has effectively put all aspiring bat boys in the Trenton area out of business. The Thunder recently announced that Chase and his life partner, Cyndarella, had given birth to a litter of puppies, which were then put up for sale. The defending Eastern League champs unveiled new logos and team uniforms this winter and will give the thunderbolt contest-winning fan a $500 prize.
Figueroa joins Defenders
Longtime Orioles Minor League coach Bienvenido Figueroa was named the new manager of the Connecticut Defenders in January. Figueroa, a bench coach for Double-A Bowie in 2007, spent the past 11 years in the Baltimore organization. The former Cardinals farmhand managed with Class A Advanced Frederick from 2002-2006. The Defenders also hired a new hitting coach, Victor Torres, and a new trainer, Dustin Luepker.
Reading Phillies get a makeover
Reading fans can officially refer to their hometown boys as the "R-Phils" after the club unveiled what it termed a "new identity" in November. The identity project was part of a six-month creative overhaul of the franchise and features a new red and pink "R-Phils" primary logo. The Phils also added a redesigned pinstriped home jersey, two alternate jerseys, two new caps and logos, and a 1980 powder blue retro uniform that pays tribute to Philadelphia's 1980 World Series championship.
Cathcart takes over 'Cats bench
Former Fisher Cats hitting coach Gary Cathcart was named New Hampshire's new manager in December after spending the 2007 season with Class A Lansing. It will be Cathcart's third managerial position within the Toronto organization and his 10th season as a coach.
Cuellar becomes lucky No. 13 at New Britain
Newly-appointed New Britain manager Bobby Cuellar sat down with local media at Hot Tomato's Restaurant in early February as the 13th manager in Rock Cats history. "I truly appreciate the opportunity the Minnesota Twins have given me to manage in New Britain this season," Cuellar said. "This is what it is all about, I am excited about getting started and going to Spring Training." Cuellar spent the past two seasons as the bullpen coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Fisher Cats continue affiliation with Jays
New Hampshire announced a four-year affiliation extension with the Toronto Blue Jays in January, ensuring both sides will be partners through 2012. The Jays and Fisher Cats have worked together since New Hampshire's inaugural season in 2004, and the four-year extension represents the longest allowed by Major League Baseball. Over in Erie, the SeaWolves and Detroit Tigers also renewed their Player Development Contract through 2010.
FirstEnergy Stadium turns 57
Amidst a league full of relatively new ballparks, FirstEnergy Stadium will begin its 57th season of hosting baseball in Reading. The 9,000-seat park, opened in 1951 as Reading Municipal Memorial Stadium, is known locally as Baseballtown and has hosted over 10 million Phillies fans over the years. The park also features an exploding train in right field that shoots off steam and fireworks when the R-Phils cross the plate.
Hadlock's monster looms
Portland's Hadlock Field features a nearly-identical Green Monster leftfield wall for SeaDogs sluggers to aim at. The "Maine Monster" rises 37 feet high, just as its Fenway twin does, and is actually five feet further out than Boston's. The 14-year-old stadium, named after local Portland high school baseball coach Edson Hadlock, features a Fenway-esque Citgo sign and has a lighthouse in center field.
Danny Wild is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.