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 California League, both new and old.
Six new faces taking the helm
The California League features six new managers among its 10 clubs, three in each division. In the North division, Mike Bell, who managed the Northwest League's Yakima Bears last season, takes over for the Visalia Oaks. Former Major League catcher Damon Berryhill will manage Bakersfield after serving as the Texas Rangers' catching coordinator for the past four seasons.
Another former big-league catcher, Steve Decker, takes over the defending California League champion San Jose Giants. Decker, who made his Major League debut with the San Francisco Giants in 1990 and spent parts of seven seasons in the bigs, managed the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes from 2005-2007 and was named the Northwest League Manager of the Year all three seasons.
In the South Division, 11-year Major League veteran John Valentin enters his first season as manager of the Inland Empire 66ers. Valentin is the only player in Major League history to hit for the cycle and turn an unassisted triple play. He became the 10th player to turn the unassisted trifecta as a member of the Boston Red Sox on July 8, 1994.
Jim Horner will begin his first season as manager of the High Desert Mavericks. Horner, who played nine seasons in the Seattle organization, enters his fourth year with the Mariners, including managing the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest League in 2007.
Filling out the lineup card for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in 2008 will be Ever Magallanes, who led the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels to a playoff birth in the Midwest League last year. A veteran of nine Minor League seasons, Magallanes was the 2006 Arizona League Manager of the Year for the AZL Angels.
66ers unveil new batting practice jersey
The Inland Empire 66ers have unveiled a new batting practice jersey which will double as an alternate road jersey for the 2008 season. The front of the jerseys will be a solid blue with the 66ers logo on the upper left side. The back of the jersey will have patch of the American flag and a Minor League Baseball logo.
JetHawks' logo pays tribute to community
The Lancaster JetHawks have introduced a new team identity for the 2008 season, the first change to the team's logos and color scheme since 2001. The logo pays tribute to the Antelope Valley's aerospace tradition and military history.
The primary colors are navy blue, brick red, tan and gray. The new logo features a statue-like hawk's head displayed between two military-style wings underneath the words 'Lancaster JetHawks' and over two crossed baseball hats with a baseball in the middle.
Sam Lynn Ballpark enters its 67th season
Sam Lynn Ballpark, home of the Bakersfield Blaze, has been home to Minor League Baseball in Bakersfield for 67 years. Built in 1941, it is the only ballpark in organized professional baseball where the batter faces the west, putting him squarely in the eyes of the sun. For this reason, most of the summer games begin as late as 8 p.m.
The park was named after Sam Lynn, owner of the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Bakersfield during the 1930s. Lynn was also instrumental in the formation of the California League, though he passed away months before the first pitch of its inaugural season in 1941.
The oldest park in the 10-team California League, the facility has been home to nine different clubs, beginning with the Bakersfield Badgers in the 1941-42 season. The Blaze have been affiliated with the Texas Rangers since 2005, and a new working agreement with the franchise will keep baseball in Bakersfield through at least the 2010 season.
Giants continue to call Municipal Stadium home
Municipal Stadium, home of the San Jose Giants, has hosted professional baseball in San Jose for more than 60 years. Now, thanks to a lease extension this past November, the Giants will continue to play at the park through the 2013 season.
The stadium was built in 1941 at the cost of $80,000 and was one of the first stadiums to be built entirely of reinforced concrete. It opened in 1942 as the home of the San Francisco Seals. San Jose has been the Class A Advanced affiliate of the San Francisco Giants since 1988, the longest running affiliation in the California League.
Baseball in Stockton
Organized professional baseball has existed in Stockton for over 100 years. In 1888, the Stockton team won the pennant in an earlier incarnation of the California League with a record of 41-12. Residents of Stockton lay claim to the team having been the inspiration for Ernest Thayer's famous poem "Casey at the Bat," published in the San Francisco Examiner in 1888. After the poem became popular, the team was renamed the Mudville Nine for the 1902 season. Thayer is said to have covered the team for the San Francisco paper, though he stated that the poem has no factual basis.
The Stockton Flyers were a charter member of the California League's inaugural season in 1941 and became the Stockton Ports in 1946, a season in which they won their first California League pennant. They have been affiliated with 11 different Major League clubs during their history, including their current affiliation with the Oakland Athletics. The Ports play their home games at Banner Island Ballpark, which holds 5,300 people and opened in 2005.