03/31/2008 8:48 AM ET
Old meets new in the Pacific Coast League
Beavers, Grizzlies get makeover; Sidewinders set for final year in Tucson
By Michael Echan / 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 Pacific Coast League, both new and old.
Tune in, Memphis
That's what the Redbirds are hoping fans will do this year if they can't make it to the ballpark. During the offseason, the club announced a newcomer to its broadcast team, Dave Woloshin. Already a member of WHBQ-650 AM, the Redbirds' flagship radio station, Woloshin will now handle play-by-play duties alongside color analyst Reggie Williams. The regular team of Steve Selby and Charlie Lea will take care of television broadcasts.
Redbirds add two to the roost
Memphis also introduced two additions to their on-field staff, one from within the Cardinals organization and another from the International League. Blaise Ilsley will be the 2008 pitching coach after holding the same title the last three years with the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. He will take over for longtime pitching coach Dyar Miller. The second new coach will be Mark Budaska, who spent the last four seasons with the Pawtucket Red Sox. Chris Maloney will return as Redbirds manager this season.
Sporting a new look
With a new season comes a new look for the Fresno Grizzlies. Gone is the green scheme and badge-like paw-print logo; in comes a snarling bear along with team colors of orange, black and cream -- matching the colors of their parent club, the San Francisco Giants.
Not to be outdone
Fresno wasn't the only franchise to change looks. There will be no more confusion between the Portland Beavers and the two-time defending NCAA champion Oregon State University Beavers. This past January, the Minor League club ditched their orange and black color scheme and logo in favor of a bluer look. Portland-based Sandstrom Design re-created the old "Lucky Beaver" from the 1940s and '50s, having the flat-tailed -- and apparently left-handed -- rodent holding a bat inside a light-blue ring. Inside that ring are the words "Portland" and "Beavers" in a darker blue hue and white border, with the phrase "EST'D 1903" separating the two at either end. Naturally, the Beavers have adopted new jerseys and a new FieldTurf playing surface at PGE Park.
Still going strong
Despite the new look and updated field, the Portland Beavers are still among the old guard in the PCL, having started out in 1903. They are not the oldest continuous team in the league, however. That title goes to the Tacoma Rainiers, who've played in the PCL for 48 uninterrupted years.
The same family tree
PCL president Branch Rickey knows a thing or two about the Minor Leagues. It was Rickey's grandfather, the original Branch Rickey, who all but turned the Minors from a loose association of small-town teams into the well-organized collection of Major League farm clubs we know today. (Oh, and he played a small role in breaking baseball's color barrier, too.) Today's Rickey -- full name Branch Barrett Rickey, not Wesley Branch Rickey like his father and grandfather -- is now entering his 11th year as PCL president. This summer, though, his attention may be diverted a bit to the Beijing Olympics; Rickey used to be an Olympic referee in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.
The last Opening Day
Due in part to sagging attendance and the promise of a brand-new ballpark in Reno, Nev., the Tucson Sidewinders will say goodbye to their home since 1969, when they started as the Tucson Toros. Despite winning the PCL Championship and Bricktown Showdown in 2006, the Sidewinders drew just 270,853 fans to Tucson Electric Park last season and often finish near or at the bottom of PCL attendance figures. Their new stadium is currently under construction between the Truckee River and the University of Nevada-Reno.
Michael Echan 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.