Though it's entirely possible that Kinston, N.C., an Inner Banks town with a rich baseball tradition, will lure a Minor League team to Grainger Stadium in 2012, the 2011 season will be the last of 25 for the incumbent franchise.
The Indians are moving about an hour and a half northwest to Zebulon, ending a love affair that's gone on since 1987. The K-Tribe were eliminated in the first round of the Carolina League playoffs last year and last took home the circuit's crown in 2006. A title this year would be a lovely parting gift for Kinston fans. Should the baseball gods smile upon another squad instead, the Indians front office has still stocked the schedule with promotions from Kentucky Derby Night to Ladies night.
Here's a look at what else is happening in the Carolina League in the new season.
MLB parent club: Baltimore Orioles
2010 results: 72-68; first-half division winners
2011 manager: Orlando Gomez (second season)
Just before the start of the season, Frederick announced a new club mascot, Frank Key, named after the man who wrote that old baseball standard, "The Star-Spangled Banner." ... Dan Klein, whom the Orioles grabbed with the 85th overall pick in last year's Draft, could work his way up to Class A Advanced at some point late in his first full season as a pro. ... If he does, Klein will join a pitching staff that will likely include Nathan Moreau, who tossed a no-hitter in his Carolina League debut but was inconsistent over 10 Class A Advanced starts last year. ... Manager Orlando Gomez is back after leading the Keys to a division title in his first season at the helm.
MLB parent club: Cleveland Indians
2010 results: 73-67
2011 manager: Aaron Holbert (second season)
In addition to the aforementioned promotions and the farewell campaign, the Kinston club can be proud to have a few of Cleveland's most highly rated prospects suit up with the K-Tribe this season. ... Drew Pomeranz, Cleveland's first-round pick from last year, is set to start his first pro season in the Carolina League, and he may even quickly advance to Double-A if he pitches well in his first few starts. ... Jason Knapp, whose upper-90s fastball helped him strikeout 123 over 97 innings in 2009, is back at the top of his game after missing much of 2010 with biceps tendonitis. ... Outfielder Bo Greenwell is likely to start the season back in Kinston after batting .292 with the club in the second half of the summer last year.
MLB parent club: Atlanta Braves
2010 results: 61-77
2011 manager: Luis Salazar (first season)
The Hillcats welcome a new parent club in the Braves, and a new manager in Luis Salazar, who lost an eye in a scary Spring Training accident. ... Arodys Vizcaino, one of the Braves' best pitching prospects, will toss some innings for the Hillcats. ... Right-hander Cory Rasmus made eight Class A Advanced starts last year and stands to return to the Carolina League for the beginning of the season. ... It's possible Cory Harrilchak who spent half of last year in the Carolina League and then was an Arizona Fall League standout, will see some more at-bats at the level before moving up to Double-A. ... Lynchburg will award one lucky area pop a new toy with its Father's Day Grill Giveaway.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans
MLB parent club: Texas Rangers
2010 results: 58-82
2011 manager: Jason Wood (first season)
The Pelicans -- formerly a Braves affiliate -- also have some changes for the new season. Now fielding Rangers prospects, Myrtle Beach will play under the guidance of first-time manager Jason Wood. Wood, a former big leaguer, was previously a hitting coach in the Texas organization. ... Robbie Erlin, a 20-year-old lefty who went 6-3 with a 2.12 ERA in the Sally League last year, moves up for Opening Day. ... Fellow southpaw Robbie Ross will join Erlin in the rotation. ... Third baseman Mike Olt, a 2010 sandwich pick, brings his formidable bat to the Pelicans lineup by starting his first full season at the Class A Advanced level.
MLB parent club: Washington Nationals
2010 results: 70-69; Second-half division champions; Carolina League champions
2011 manager: Matt LeCroy (first season)
The P-Nats look for their second straight Carolina League title, which would be their third in four years. ... Leading the way will be new manager Matt LeCroy, who managed the Sally League's Hagerstown Suns in each of the last two seasons. ... Sammy Solis, a lefty who was picked up in the second round of last year's Draft, should get up to Potomac when he's ready to start his season following a minor groin injury. ... Outfielder Eury Perez figures to get significant playing time with the P-Nats throughout the summer. ... Cutter Dykstra, who came to the Washington system in the deal that sent Nyjer Morgan to Milwaukee, starts the year as the P-Nats' third baseman. ... Abner Doubleday bobbleheads highlight a July 2nd History of Baseball Night promotion.
Salem Red Sox
MLB parent club:
Boston Red Sox
Bruce Crabbe (first season)
Bruce Crabbe steps into the Salem managerial role after helming the New York-Penn League's Lowell Spinners last year and in 2006. ... He'll benefit from a couple of Boston's top prospects in pitcher Drake Britton
and third baseman Kolbrin Vitek
. ... A pair of pitchers from last year's Draft -- Brandon Workman
and Anthony Ranaudo
could be along to help out with the workload later in the season. ... Pete Hissey
, who played in a couple of big league Spring Training games, returns to patrol center field in Salem.
Wilmington Blue Rocks
MLB parent club: Kansas City Royals
2010 results: 68-70
2011 manager: Brian Rupp (third season)
The Blue Rocks look for a turnaround; of the league's clubs who remained with the same affiliate this year, they ended 2010 with the worst record. ... Rey Navarro comes back to play shortstop for Wilmington after claiming the Puerto Rican Winter League's Finals MVP award. ... Professional wrestler Jerry Lawler is scheduled to appear at the Blue Rocks' home game on May 21, and Amazing Christopher will perform on June 3.
MLB parent club: Chicago White Sox
2010 results: 81-58; Southern Division winner
2011 manager: Julio Vinas (first season)
The Dash dropped the circuit championship series last year but enjoyed offseason, off-the-field glory when VP of baseball operations Ryan Manuel won the Carolina League Executive of the Year award. ... Outfielder Jared Mitchell, who was selected to the AFL's Rising Stars Showcase after missing the regular season while recovering from ankle surgery, brings his mighty bat to Winston-Salem. ... Pitcher Jacob Petricka, a second-rounder from last year's Draft, could crack the Carolina League this season. ... Fellow right-handers Addison Reed and Andre Rienzo are likely to spend a good portion of the year with the Dash.