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 Carolina League, both new and old.
All-Pro running backs purchase flock of Pelicans
Myrtle Beach announced on Feb. 21 that former National Football League All-Pro running backs Jerome Bettis and Eddie George have joined the Pelicans ownership group. While it is the first foray into professional sports ownership for George, Bettis, an investor in Curve Baseball LP, owners of two of the Pelicans' sister franchises in Altoona and State College, was particularly pleased: "I am ecstatic to be investing in my third Minor League Baseball franchise. This ownership group has proven to be winners both on and off the field and I really appreciate the opportunity to continue with such a successful group and to become part of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans."
Potomac adds "Playbill" style magazine
The Potomac Nationals have announced a new publication, titled the Potomac Nationals Gameday Magazine, which will be given away to every fan that passes through the gates at Pfitzner Stadium in 2008. The Potomac Nationals Gameday Magazine will replace the yearbook style programs the team sold during previous seasons. The new publication will be published on a monthly basis for a total of five different editions in a smaller "playbill" style format. Each edition will include unique feature stories as well as updated player bios.
"Our new program format is going to be great for our fans not only because it will be complimentary, but it will also enable us to provide new content on a monthly basis," said Assistant General Manager Anthony Oppermann. "This will be a fantastic opportunity for our sponsors to gain more exposure by literally being in the hands of all of our fans."
Lynchburg opens Hillcats Pub
During the summer of 2007, Lynchburg opened the Hillcats Pub in Lynchburg City Stadium. The Pub is available for rental for nightly pre-game parties 90 minutes prior to the start of every home game and features three flat-screen televisions, free appetizers and a full-service bar with draft and bottled beer not available anywhere else on the stadium concourse.
Kennedy takes over Rocks bench
Former Minor League Manager of the Year Darryl Kennedy was appointed Wilmington's new manager in Feb. after spending the 2007 season with Rookie-level Burlington. Kennedy has taken six teams to the playoffs in his 10-year managerial career and sports a 521-432 (.547) record with the Gulf Coast Rangers, Charlotte, Spokane, Frisco and Burlington.
During his introductory press conference, Kennedy made it clear that winning baseball would be a high priority in 2008. "In my 10 years of managing, I've never gone into a game and not wanted to win. I'm not a good loser. I hate to lose. But, at the same time I'm not going to risk a player's health or future just to win a ballgame."
Kinston appoints new manager, pitching coach
One year after managing Class A Lake County, Chris Tremie was named the new manager of the Kinston Indians in early Jan. Tremie led the Captains to a 64-74 record in 2007 and guided the Gulf Coast Indians to a 21-29 record in 2006.
Greg Hibbard takes over pitching coach duties after spending the 2007 season with Double-A Akron. Hibbard previously helped guide the Kinston staff to a Carolina League Championship in 2004.
Salem adds help for arms, bats
The Astros have assigned Pitching Coach Gary Ruby and Hitting Coach Keith Bodie to Salem for the 2008 season. Ruby, a former pitching coach for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, most recently served as the Minor League pitching coordinator for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2002 through 2007.
Bodie, who in 1981 played alongside Avalanche Manager Jim Pankovits at Triple-A Tucson, managed in the minor leagues for 13 seasons, most recently with Double-A Harrisburg in 2005. From 1994 to 1999, he was the Minor League coordinator for the San Francisco Giants.
Calvin Falwell Field turns 69
Originally constructed in 1939, the stadium held its inaugural game on April 11, 1940 featuring an exhibition game between the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers. It is currently home to the Lynchburg Hillcats.
The Stadium has been renovated four times since 1939, including a new outfield fence, grandstand roof and screen, and new lights in 1978, as well as a new clubhouse in 1981.
A $6.5 million renovation began in 2002, which included a complete renovation of the concourse with the addition of seat back chairs and two picnic areas. It also included the addition of two new concession stands, eight luxury boxes, a new press box, arcade room, spacious bathrooms and a state-of-the-art scoreboard.
The field was dedicated to Calvin F. Falwell, who served as President of the Lynchburg Baseball Corporation since its inception in 1966, in August of 2004.
Ernie Shore Field begins farewell tour
2008 marks the final season for Ernie Shore Field as the home of the Winston-Salem Warthogs, who will move into a brand new, 5,500 seat stadium in the downtown area in 2009. Shore Field has hosted the Warthogs since 1956 and was named after former Major League pitcher and North Carolinian Ernie Shore, a teammate of the great Babe Ruth on the Red Sox during the 1910s.
Myrtle Beach continues affiliation with Braves
Since 1980, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans and Atlanta Braves have enjoyed an affiliation with one another, the longest current relationship in the Carolina League. Five other Carolina League teams have spent more than a decade with a current MLB club, including Kinston (Indians since 1987), Frederick (Orioles since 1989), Lynchburg (Pirates since 1995) and Winston-Salem (White Sox since 1997). Wilmington was affiliated with the Royals from 1993-2004 before partnering with the Red Sox for two seasons and then returning to the Kansas City organization in 2007.