Batting Around: Sox want Dash on board

Winston-Salem, Frisco in line for possible ownership changes

The Winston-Salem Dash have drawn over 300,000 fans in each of their first four seasons at BB&T Ballpark.

By Benjamin Hill / | March 27, 2014 10:30 AM ET

The Salem Red Sox are the only team in the Carolina League currently owned by their parent club, but they might soon be joined in that category by Sox of a different color.

On Tuesday, the Winston-Salem Dash announced that "based on the tremendous success of our team, an investment group that includes the Chicago White Sox has been proposed to become majority owner." The Dash, currently owned by a group of local investors, have been an affiliate of the White Sox since 1997. The team moved into BB&T Ballpark, its current home, in 2010, and has drawn more than 300,000 fans in each of its four seasons there (the Dash is the only team in the league that can boast such a streak).

The news of the impending ownership transition came in the form of a letter from Dash president Geoff Lassiter, addressed to the team's fans.

"The White Sox have seen the community's support for the Dash, and they are anxious to be an even greater part of Winston-Salem and the future success of the Dash," wrote Lassiter.

However, this is not yet a done deal.

"The group's investment in the Dash is contingent upon obtaining a revised long-term lease on the ballpark, which is owned by the city," continued Lassiter. "The city and the Winston-Salem Dash are in negotiations on a new 25-year lease on BB&T Ballpark that includes provisions to restructure the debt on the baseball stadium to better protect the city's investment."

A corresponding press release issued by the city of Winston-Salem provides further detail on the need for a new lease agreement, explaining that it "will provide long-term financing for the ballpark to replace a short-term, 5 million construction loan the Dash secured in 2009 at the height of a difficult lending environment."

Suns to keep on shining in Hagerstown?

There has been speculation that the 2014 season could be the last for the Hagerstown Suns, but it is looking less likely as each day goes by.

A group of investors -- including members of the Suns' current ownership group -- are planning to relocate the team to Fredericksburg, Va., but the 38-acre plot of land on which a new stadium would be built has not yet been acquired. From

In October, after the baseball investors signed the contract to buy the land, Fredericksburg's Treasurer's Office agreed to pause the tax-sale process for 150 days to give the investors time to further study the site, prepare their construction plans and finalize financing.

The deadline for the original 150-day period is Thursday. The baseball investors asked for and received a 90-day extension to continue working out final details of their construction plans and budget before purchasing the land.

If and when the Suns depart, then the city of Hagerstown will have to decide what to do with the team's current home of Municipal Stadium. There will be no lack of options, as city councilman Kristin Aleshire told WHAG TV that "We've had three or four inquiries."

"For me, it's not a matter of whether we deserve a team or whether we need a team. But do we really want one?" asked Aleshire.

Building in Biloxi

The city of Biloxi held a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony in January, marking the start of construction on a stadium that will host the Double-A Southern League franchise now known as the Huntsville Stars. The stadium is set to open in time for the 2015 season; if it does not, then the city will have to pay team ownership 0,000 for every home game missed.

Hence, there is a growing sense of urgency to make palpable progress on this new facility. WLOX TV reported March 24 that "there is still no sign of a stadium," but city councilman Kenny Glavan maintains that progress is nonetheless being made.

"They're kind of repositioning some of the electrical, surveying some of the components of that, and they've been communicating to businesses that there may be some outages temporarily," said Glavan.

New ownership for the RoughRiders?

Chuck Greenberg already owns the Class A Short-Season State College Spikes and Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach Pelicans, and soon the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders might be part of his Minor League portfolio as well. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Greenberg's ownership group is the frontrunner to purchase the RoughRiders, who are one of five Mandalay Baseball entities currently on the market.

The RoughRiders and the Pelicans are both Texas Rangers affiliates; Greenberg briefly served as the Rangers' CEO before resigning in March 2011.

Your requisite Columbia, S.C., ballpark update

This column wouldn't be complete without an update from Columbia, S.C., where Minor League owner Jason Freier (Fort Wayne TinCaps, Savannah Sand Gnats) is spearheading efforts to relocate a Minor League team. The latest news is ... there is no news.

A final stadium approval vote was scheduled to take place on March 18, but city council has postponed it until sometime in April. The Columbia Free Times reports that "Councilman Cameron Runyan, the likely swing vote, says he's still doing his due diligence -- last week, he visited Greenville [S.C., home of the Drive] to discuss its recent baseball experiences with city officials there."

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for 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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