Prospects for Pulaski dimming again

Landers still looking for team to take over open spot in Appy League

(Jaimee Marinke)

By Kevin T. Czerwinski / | December 4, 2007 1:53 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Appalachian League remained a nine-team circuit as of Tuesday evening despite the efforts put forth by president Lee Landers to add a 10th franchise to the Class A Short-Season circuit.

Landers continued dialogue with the Seattle Mariners in hopes of having that franchise fill the void that was created when Toronto abruptly pulled out of Pulaski at the end of the 2006 season. The league and Minor League Baseball searched in vain to find a solution to the problem but were unable to place a 10th team in the league, forcing the remaining nine teams to play an odd and often inconvenient schedule in 2007.

Whether Landers will be faced with that problem again in 2008 is still a question. He was hoping to get an answer from the Mariners on Tuesday, but none was forthcoming. Landers added that he would like to have an answer by Dec. 14 at the latest.

"We talked and nothing happened," Landers said. "We're giving the club a little more time to see where they stand. It's better this way than getting a no. I was positive about it in the beginning but the further along we get into it, I'm beginning to wonder. We're not any closer now than we were a month ago.

"If a club wants to come to our league, it's a matter of whether or not they can fit it into their budget and budgets are close to being set. I keep reminding our people that what's an important thing on our agenda and what's important to the city of Pulaski may not be the most important thing to a Major League club. I understand that."

Landers said the league has a few other options should a deal not be struck with Seattle, but seemed skeptical as to whether they would provide any relief. The Mariners have short-season teams in Everett (Northwest League) and the Arizona League. A team official said the club is exploring several options of its own.

"I'm very disappointed about this whole situation because it happened under my watch," said Landers, who was re-elected as president Tuesday. "Maybe I put more pressure on myself than I should have. I know, though, that if someone doesn't want to come, there's nothing I can do about it. I keep wondering if I'm missing something."

Pulaski has a long history of hosting affiliated Minor League baseball. Prior to the Blue Jays' four-year term, the city had hosted Major League affiliates from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers since 1947. The franchise captured Appalachian League championships in 1948, 1969, 1986 and 1991.

This is the third time since 1992 that Pulaski has searched for a team. The Braves pulled out in 1992 and the Rangers did the same a decade later. The Blue Jays said they made the move because they wanted to downsize their Minor League operations in order to provide better resources for their remaining clubs. Yet Toronto added a Gulf Coast League affiliate earlier this year to replace the team that left Pulaski.

The business of baseball: Enhancing ballparks, creating customer demand and even selling advertisements on faxes and were among the topics shared at Monday's Bob Freitas Business Seminar. The one-day seminar, a staple of the Baseball Winter Meetings for nearly two decades, offered a series of round-table discussions among Minor League front-office staffers on many aspects of their business.

Among the topics at this year's seminar were "Keeping It Fresh After 42 Years" (Ashley Forlini, Reading Phillies); "Marketing Through Media Relations (Randy Wehofer, Burlington Bees) and "Using Technology for Fun & Success" (Buck Rogers, Brevard County Manatees).

"If you hear someone speak for an hour, you can probably take away four or five great ideas that can be beneficial for your team down the road," said Matt Segal, media relations manager for the Indianapolis Indians.

Segal said his club's contingent split up into several groups in order to hear as many presentations as possible at the seminar. He listened as Rogers, the general manager for the Manatees, encouraged attendees to use their creativity to stretch their advertising budgets.

"We all send out a few thousands faxes each year," Rogers said to about 20 attendees from various clubs. "Why not sell ads on them and make a few hundred extra bucks?"

The seminar is named after Bob Freitas, a former Northwest League president, club operator and field representative for Minor League Baseball well known for his business acumen before his death in 1989.

This and that: Carlos Gomez, one of the Mets' top prospects, was not seriously hurt Nov. 27 when he was hit by a pitch in a Dominican Winter League game. Gomez hasn't played since but his absence, according to two New York officials, had nothing to do with the beaning, which came on an off-speed pitch. The young speedster is on a scheduled leave from the Leones del Escogido, according to one official, because he got married. ... Toledo media relations director Jason Griffin said the Mud Hens never heard back from Alex Rodriguez or his agent Scott Boras in regards to their well-publicized offer to come play in the International League, regardless of how tongue-in-cheek it was. Griffin said he'd be looking for Boras in the lobby at Opryland to talk to him about the offer. ... It appears as though former Mets and Pirates farmhand Alay Soler is on the verge of signing with Baltimore. The two sides have had lengthy discussions, but Baltimore isn't ready to commit to the Cuban right-hander just yet. Soler, who pitched three scoreless innings Monday night for Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League, lives in Virginia and is attracted to the fact that Baltimore and Norfolk -- the O's Triple-A affiliate -- are so close to his home.

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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