The Iowa Cubs have extended their player development contract with the Cubs to 2020. This is a two year extension beyond the previous agreement to 2018. The Cubs have had their AAA affiliate in Iowa since 1981. The article mentions that this is the third longest affiliation excluding minor league teams that are owned by a major league team, so in case you were curious, the two that are longer are Reading with the Phillies (tied for longest overall with the Tigers in Lakeland) and Omaha with the Royals.
On Tuesday, April 4, the Wilmington Blue Rocks held an open batting practice where fans could come into the stadium to watch and also get autographs. Throughout the event, there was a table on the concourse where a number of players signed autographs. I was able to meet quite a few players, but I also got autographs on the three cards of the players which I had. Not coincidentally, I had cards of the players who were the highest draft picks, Foster Griffin, Chase Vallot and Scott Blewett.
One thing that I was disappointed about was that the Blue Rocks roster wasn’t posted online the day before the event. Their webpage was not updated for the 2017 roster until that day. Luckily, I decided to grab cards of any of the Royals players who are at the lower levels since I wasn’t sure who was going to be there and was able to get autographs from all three players on the team whose cards I had.
While they have had this event in past years, this was my first time in attendance, and I plan on going back again next season.
Bill Ripken Autographed Card
Yesterday, the Abingdon branch of the Harford County Public Library hosted the Aberdeen IronBirds Kickoff Celebration which featured former Orioles player Bill Ripken. He read some stories to the kids at the event and answered some of their questions. At the end of the event, he signed items and took pictures with pretty much every fan there. I thought it was a great event that provided access to a former major league player who enjoyed talking about baseball and interacting with the fans.
The Astros High A Carolina League affiliate will be playing in Buies Creek, NC in 2017. The team will move to a new stadium in Fayetteville, NC in 2019, but will be playing at Campbell University in Buies Creek in 2017 and 2018. The team will be known as the Buies Creek Astros.
The New Orleans Zephyrs have changed their name to the New Orleans Baby Cakes. I think this is another terrible choice for a name. I know this is done for marketing purposes, but I just don’t see people getting excited over Baby Cakes merchandise. I also agree that a name change is good since they had kept the inherited Zephyrs name from when the team was in Denver, but I wish that they would have gone back to the old Pelicans name in 1993 when the American Association team moved to New Orleans, unlike now where they can’t use it since the basketball team has it. I also guess that teams like to have two word names since that is what the five newly named teams decided to go with.
The Binghamton Mets have changed their name to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. I know that the last few posts have talked about how I think the new name changes are poor, but I think it’s reasonable to get away from the Mets name and take on a unique identity. I’m not sure that Rumble Ponies is the best way to do that though. I hadn’t known before that Binghamton was carousel capital of the world, but I don’t think that Rumble Ponies is the best way to honor that tradition.
The new Carolina League in Kinston, which will be the Rangers High A affiliate, will be known as the Down East Wood Ducks. I have nothing against the Wood Ducks name, but I think that referring to the location as Down East is terrible. I would be very surprised if the team was still called Down East in three years. I’ve talked before about how I think that locations should be specific, but I don’t think that referring to the coastal plain portion of eastern North Carolina as Down East would be popular. Clearly I’m in the minority with the name choices, but I know when the Wood Ducks come up to Delaware to play my Blue Rocks, virtually no one in the stands will have any idea where the team is from.
The Jacksonville Suns have changed their name to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. I know that teams will change their name to drive additional marketing opportunities, but I’m disappointed that the Suns name will be gone after 55 years (starting in 1962 with the AAA Indians affiliate in the International League). You could argue that it’s a little out of date, but baseball is flush with tradition.
The new Kissimmee team that is the relocated Brevard County Manatees will be known as the Florida Fire Frogs. I think the Fire Frogs name is interesting and works well for a minor league team, but I still can’t get past that they are the Florida Fire Frogs. The Florida team in the Florida State League where every team is in Florida just makes no sense to me. I realize that they do it because they want to make it appear that the team isn’t localized to Kissimmee and claim a larger market (Orlando), but I don’t agree with the approach. I think there will be more people who were to say that they don’t know where the Florida team is from (where in the state of Florida, of course), instead of people not wanting to go to a game because of the a city name attached to the team. If it was for the alliteration, then I could see more reason behind the choice. I know that everything is done for marketing and to try to bring in the most money, but at the same time, there has to be some space to eliminate confusion and make it clear what is going on. I’m a diehard fan, so I know many of the subtle details, but when I hear the misinformation that other fans are discussing around me at games, it just makes me think about how there are some very small changes that would make it easier for the casual fan to understand what was going on.