Results tagged ‘ Florida State League ’

Not Sure about the Orlando Yankees, but O-Town needs a Team


The city of Orlando has always been an optimistic little borough centralized . If you mentioned the city’s name to most people, it would quickly entertain visits to Disney World or Universal Studios, and it might even bring back memories of watching spacecraft launch off the Space Coast headed for the Stars. For a long time it was considered one of those ” cities on the cusp” of becoming a striving metropolis.

Right now however it is the epicenter of the Winter first folly for Major League Baseball as the league’s 30 General Manager and higher echelons filter into this Mickey Mouse town not to see the new sparkling Amway Center for a Orlando Magic game, but hopefully to part with a few MLB souvenirs of their own before packing and leaving.

Within the hustle and bustle of all this activity surrounding the possibilities and envisioned movements for 2011 is a want by this once sleepy little town to again be considered “on the edge and hip”. Once again this town wants to have professional baseball within its city limits, and the team it is pursuing might surprise you. The city now boasts only Spring Training baseball out at the Walt Disney World of Sports complex when the Houston Astros come into play from late February to the end of March.

For a long time, this region had a team to call their own before the Tampa Bay Rays decided to move their Double-A affiliation to Montgomery, Alabama and left the city bare of any minor league baseball. But all that could soon change if Armando Gutierrez Jr. has his way. The former 8th district United States Senate candidate feels so passionate about this endeavor he withdrew his name from his Senate race and pushed his loyalties and political clout towards again eating popcorn and Cracker Jacks at a future Orlando baseball game.

When the group first announced its intentions to find a professional baseball partner for the city, some mused that the city might be trying to entice and influence the Rays ownership to have team possibly migrate along the I-4 corridor from the west coast of Florida to O-town. But that illusion was quickly eliminated from the formula as the Rays did not seek such a drastic change of local, but only wanted to expand their team presence towards Orlando by providing more exposure through out-of-town television and radio broadcasts to the Orlando and it massive suburbs.

And Gutierrez had the right bait on his fishing pole to try and seduce the Rays ownership as one of his key points to his sought after goal of bringing professional baseball back to Orlando would be to build a state of the art baseball facility and a baseball museum. Both actually played well into the Rays foreseeable future want and need for a new stadium, and with the Rays also currently housing the Ted Williams Hitters Museum within the bowels of Tropicana Field, it might have been a perfect “two birds in the bush” analogy for Gutierrez.

Gutierrez however is not focusing on the Rays. He has a bigger fish in his sights and after meeting with some interesting possible investors while on his U S Senate campaign, Gutierrez has set his sight on another classic minor league team that would bring both local and out of town fans by seducing them with the attractions of baseball and the other surrounding family activities that could be enjoyed during the Spring and Summer months in sunny Florida.


Orlando Yankees proposed Stadium photo


Many might not know the surface plans of Gutierrez and his crew of motley investors setting their sights upon the Florida State League Tampa Yankees and possibly moving them 90-odd miles to a what they consider a more desirable location set within a vibrant young city landscape. Suddenly Gutierrez’s focal point shifted from just trying to entice a team to relocate here to possibly being part of an ownership group that would purchase the FSL franchise and move it into their proposed stadium.

But you have to take this teasing with a grain of salt. How hard do you think the city of Tampa will fight any movement or even relocation of the Yankee Spring Training complex and Class-A squad after the city sunk in so much financial resources, initially posting bonds to provide for the massive upgrade and changes to George Steinbrenner Field and the surrounding area.

This is not to say Gutierrez is putting all his baseball in one bucket, but he is definitely swinging hard for the fences in trying to relocate an iconic baseball affiliate from a well-known locale that treasures the Yankee legacy and fan following like a pilgrimage each Spring. If Gutierrez and his crew can get such a franchise, the Orlando region instantly lights up as a possible relocation sight for a future MLB franchise.

This is not to push the aspect of MLB putting a franchise right into the lap of O-town, but with the backing of such industry giants as Disney and Universal Studios, it would be insane for MLB’s top tier to not at least research and entertain a possibility. Put the added essence of the Rays saying the right words right now in public, but not on paper about their continued involvement in the Tampa Bay region, and you get a small state of flux within the heart of the state right now.

I actually commend Gutierrez and his enthusiastic crew for�their brash and candid decision to thrust it all into the fire here and go for an iconic minor league affiliate that would instantly bring attention to his city and their efforts to again have baseball within its city limits. Back in the early 2000’s, I used to attend a few Orlando DevilRays game when the big team was out of town on road trips. It is a great community with all the hustle and bustle of a thriving metropolis intertwined with the charm and romance of Southern baseball traditions.

It take a lot of courage and conviction for a man to withdraw his name from an election towards securing a prestigious post like a seat in the U S Senate. But sometimes the passion and enticement of the game can be more alluring than a trio of sirens upon the rocks. Gutierrez and his group are firmly committed to standing at the plate and taking whatever baseball throws at them. Not sure how this will all turn out in the end, but Gutierrez sounds like one of those guys who will not stand there and take a third called strike. I think he will find his team soon and the goal will slowly unfold again to have Baseball back in O-town.

Minor League Problems in 2009?


Minor League
baseball has always been the bread and butter of the major leagues. They help
support and replenish the league with players and coaches, and even bring about
change in promotions and in-game entertainment. So why is it in 2009, we might
see a huge reduction in minor league activities at our local ballparks? Is the
culprit the economy that is forcing the major league big clubs to scale back a
down flow of capital, or is it a sign of the time that when the economy is
slacking, so will the attendance at the lower levels of

If you take a
brisk walk from the lavish suites of the Las Vegas epicenter of baseball
centered at the famed Bellagio hotel, where major league baseball executives and
agents  haggle and discuss multimillion-dollar contracts for players. You will
find another much more nervous group of baseball officials and job seekers
gathered around just looking for answers and promises for the upcoming 2009
minor league seasons.


At the Winter Meetings edition of the  minor league job fair and trade
show, the topic on many minds is the floundering and unstable economy, which
will be  expected to have a far more economical effect on baseball’s lower
levels than on the major leagues. Many minor league teams are searching for
creative ways to save  revenue and venue money but keep loyal fan bases’
heading out to their ballparks, and  current baseball experienced job seekers
are finding few openings. Some of the cost-saving measures will affect  the fans
in the long run, and others will reach out into the confines of the field.

Take for example, the St. Louis Cardinals’ entire minor league system,
where many of the teams’  players will be issued and will wear last year’s
uniforms. Buddy Bates, the  Cardinals minor league equipment  manager, said it
was difficult to find items to cut on the field because the teams still needed
catcher’s equipment, helmets and baseballs. But, he said, reusing uniforms was
something his organization could get away with. Uniform repairs cost will soar
in 2009, and with that fact, the teams’  seamstress  might be kept busier in
2009 repairing pants  than in stitching on players names on their jerseys.
Patches might be  the order of the day on pants and knee areas for the entire
minor league system.



Many other  minor league organizations have come to the same conclusion,
said Mike Gentz, the team uniforms promotion manager for Wilson Sporting Goods.
But will the lean times and reduced money flowing downhill from the Parent clubs
be enough to evoke cost saving measure early in the season. Or will the club
just start the season on a cost-conscious budget and  take a ‘wait and see’
attitude into the early stages of the upcoming seasons. And why is the uniforms
being the first thing cut in a time of crisis?

Most teams have upgraded or even done huge replacements on their uniforms
yearly, but this year  that number might be a bit scaled back until the true
number begin to hit the turnstiles of the stadiums.  You can bet at the major
league level, the cost cutting will not be as visible as in the minors,but will
it is not nearly as much enforced early in the minor league programs. Getz said
he has a talked to 15 to 20 team
representatives, and most were going to try
to just fill in a few standard things, but most have expressed a need to try
and reuse their old uniforms.”

Some teams
needing new ones, Gentz said, have decided against the traditional jerseys with
the logo sewn on the front. Instead, they have chosen a less expensive option in
which the team logo is pressed onto the jerseys, like a promotion T-shirt, or
jersey that used to be propelled into the stands with an air cannon in the
“You can’t
notice it unless you are up close,” Gentz said. “It saves anywhere from a third
to half the cost.”

Teams are looking beyond uniforms for savings. One of the greatest
additions in recent years to the minor league experience, has been the upgrades
in in-game entertainment and stadium participation events. The Round Rock
Express, the Houston Astros’ Class AAA affiliate, has often bought or produced
yearly in-game entertainment features for fans from one season to the next. In
2009, however, the team plans to run the same video entertainment on the
outfield screen between innings.

That might include the same cap shuffle video instead of changing the
whole thing, like they have done in years past.  Most of these changes might
seem a bit subtle, but they do add up in the course of the season. Most teams
might not  redo their entire in-game system, but will strategically change their
entertainment. Even the action of maybe renting more of their inflatable things
will move in the right direction to show a decrease in spending and save more
traditional things, like a fireworks event during the season.

Because many teams at the lower levels of minor league baseball
their last games in late summer, they had not yet experienced  any type of brunt
from economic downturn. Since Sept. 1, the Dow
Jones industrial average has
dropped close to 25 percent, and the broader economic outlook for next year has
worsened by the day. Even with promises of economical upswings in the early
parts of 2009, it will take some time for any effects or upswings to hit the
minor league system, and  any upward move in revenues might not be felt by the
smaller clubs until 2010.





At this years Minor League job fair, prospects seemed bleak for a
chance of landing  a good job with full benefits.  Most of the young turks
paid $225 to register for the fair, which helps them put their respective
résumés in front of minor and major league officials.  It seemed that in 2007,
at the same meetings in Nashville, Tennessee there were a lot more jobs and
a fewer people seeking the positions. Even jobs in ticket sales have been scaled
back in anticipation of financial downward spirals.

Broadcasting has always been a cherry position to acquire in the minor
leagues. In recent years, the broadcasting industry had more money flowing
through it, and few applicants for the positions. But now, the jobs are
considered seasonal, and benefits are also being pulled back to ensure financial
stability. So in 2009, you might get a coveted gig on the mic at one of the
ballparks, but it will most likely be only a 7-month position, and you will need
to seek a job for the other 5 months of the year.

A weak
economy is harder the lower you go on the ladder in the minor leagues. Most
teams survive on yearly budgets ranging from $3 million to $10 million, and have
relied heavily on companies like car dealerships to buy advertising and
  Because of
the uneasiness in the auto industry right now, such sponsorships will be hard to
come by in 2009. More creativity will be needed to close deals with sponsors,
and multi-sponsoring events might become a great trend in the coming year.




To be able to
diversify sponsorship dollars among multiple sponsors might be able to bring
back some of the past years events, but might also limit other activities at the
ballparks. A great idea by one club in Minnesota is to pay $6,000 for an
inflatable jersey to use for in-game and promotional events, but to include a
velcro strip area on the jerseys front area to be able to use multiple logos, or
even seperate logos at events througout the year.

That would
save money, and also use creative measures to ensure sponsors are included at
their own events, and can be changed for every other events without huge cost to
the team. But will the economical downfall also be a time where sponsors who
might be making money hoard their resources and not even renew past contracts
with teams in spite of increased revenues. Will the influx of hard luck financial
stories be a catalyst for some sponsors as a excuse to pull

Or will the
increase in gas prices and costs be a move for more people to go to local
ballparks instead of spending more money attending major league events and game
during 2009. Could being affordable or even a local option increase the people
walking through the turnstiles at minor league parks in 2009. By and far, the
minor league product is cheaper and more economical than attending a game at the
major league level. From ticket prices to concessions, the public get a better
deal at the minor league parks.

But will that
lead to concessions having a reduced price menu, or even a selected priced
location to get deals or even a series of deals within the confines of the
ballpark.  But in the end, the teams might just take the low road when it comes
to concessions ans offer a small portion, or even a smaller size to try and
eliminate the food costs and also help portion control issues.  Could last years
french fries  portion of 6 ounces be downsized to an economical 5 ounces this
year, or maybe the size of the stadium staple hot dog might be  a little
smaller, but still priced fairly reasonable.



Teams will
have to cut corners somewhere. The food courts and the food concessions is an
easy area to fulfill economical upside without throwing a lot of attention to the
plight. All I know is that in 2009, my hot dog will still be hot, my beer will
still be cold, and the sun will feel warm on my face when I hit those afternoon
games at Brighthouse Networks Field to watch the Florida State League Clearwater