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The Official Site of Minor League Baseball
Recapping a biz-y Minor League offseason
The lowdown on new stadiums, rebrandings, parent-club affiliations
04/03/2015 10:00 AM ET
Yard Goats and construction and Tortugas, oh my! The road to the 2015 Minor League season was paved with news.

It is the way of things: Winter has given way to spring, March has given way to April, and next week, the Minor League offseason will finally, mercifully give way to the season.

But before hitting the "off" switch on the offseason, let's take a categorical -- and occasionally opinionated -- look at some of the most notable events to have occurred within the Minor League Baseball landscape.

Groundbreaking journalism

Quick! What do the cities of Biloxi, Nashville, Morgantown, Hartford and Columbia all have in common? If you said, "places where Minor League baseball stadiums are being built," then you probably don't need to be reading this article in the first place. For everybody else, I offer this overview.


Opening in 2015: Only one of the facilities mentioned above -- Nashville's First Tennessee Park -- will be home to a pre-existing, non-relocating franchise. The Sounds broke ground on that stadium in January 2014; it will be ready to host the Sounds' home opener on April 17.

MGM Park in Biloxi, Mississippi, future home of the Biloxi Shuckers (formerly the Huntsville Stars), will not be ready in time for Opening Day due to construction delays. After a prolonged road trip to start the season, the team will tentatively play its home opener on June 6.

The lone short-season facility currently under construction is Monongalia County Ballpark, which Morgantown's West Virginia Black Bears (formerly Jamestown Jammers) will share with the West Virginia University baseball program. The Black Bears, Class A Short Season affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, make their home debut on June 19.

2016 or bust: Columbia, South Carolina and Hartford, Connecticut threw their hats into the stadium construction ring this offseason, with both cities planning to host a relocated Minor League team in 2016. Ground was broken at Columbia's Spirit Communications Park on Jan. 6. The relocating team in question has not been announced, but speculation thus far has centered on the Class A South Atlantic League's Savannah Sand Gnats.

No such uncertainty exists in Hartford, which staged a groundbreaking ceremony on Feb. 17. This yet-to-be-named downtown ballpark will host the relocating New Britain Rock Cats, who play just 12 miles away.

No kidding

The biggest story of the offseason, at least in terms of social media reaction, was the March 18 announcement that the relocating New Britain Rock Cats would be called the Hartford Yard Goats in 2016 and beyond. "Yard Goat" is apparently a railroad slang term, meaning "an engine that switches a train to get it ready for another locomotive to take over." The Rock Cats explained that "a Minor League Baseball player is like that humble Yard Goat. Not a glamorous job but working day in and day out away from the big city lights to assure that the Major League affiliate is kept on track."

They've got the look

The Yard Goats' logos and uniforms have not yet been revealed, but nonetheless there was no dearth of Minor League rebranding efforts this offseason. A comprehensive roundup of all the new looks can be found here.

In my view, the best of the rebranded bunch was the Daytona Tortugas, who changed their name from "Cubs" after losing the Chicago affiliation that had made that name viable. Tortugas, Spanish for "turtle," is a fun word to say (especially when mimicking a classic-sounding car horn), and the corresponding Studio Simon-designed logos are crisp and playful without being over-the-top ridiculous.

The start of something beautiful?

As you may recall, 2014 was an even-numbered year. And in the world of Minor League Baseball, that simple fact has a special significance -- the expiration of Player Development Contracts.

PDCs are the two- or four-year contracts that bind Minor League teams to Major League organizations. From the conclusion of the regular season through the end of Sept. 21, clubs changed affiliations. The Pacific Coast League experienced the most upheaval, as six of the circuit's 16 teams will enter the 2015 season with a new parent club. Click here for a full recap.

Bought and sold

  • Few, if any, stories this season caused more gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands than the announcement that the Pawtucket Red Sox had been sold to an ownership group that hopes to move the team to a new ballpark in downtown Providence. The PawSox's current home of McCoy Stadium is the oldest ballpark in the International League.
  • This season will mark the Bragan family's final year as owners of the Jacksonville Suns, as the team is in the process of being sold to Ken Babby. The Suns will be the second team in Babby's portfolio, joining the Akron RubberDucks.
  • Mandalay Baseball, one of the most successful Minor League ownership groups of the past two decades, has successfully sold off all five of the teams in its portfolio: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Frisco RoughRiders, Dayton Dragons, Oklahoma City RedHawks (since renamed the Dodgers) and Erie SeaWolves.

In conclusion, a picture of food

Among the many notable Minor League concession items unveiled over the past month, one of the most notable was this Wisconsin Timber Rattlers creation.

Want to see more pictures of food? I'm happy to oblige.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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