OMNI June 2019
Here we are in this year of 2019, with the month of June coming to a close and promises of Independence Day and the MLB All-Star game close at hand. There has been a surprising dearth of big minor league announcements since the action-packed April OMNI. Likewise, it’s been pretty quiet on the MLG site. I have been plugging away, though I’ve been focused on taking my time to put together some quality pages. In particular, I like how the City Clusters and the Regional Place Name pages came together. Also, I was lucky enough to stumble upon digital images of each page of the year 2000 Star Struck memorabilia catalog. I put them up here and added some in-depth analysis. Good stuff.
All the News That’s Fit to be of Minor Interest
Here’s an excellent article about the viability of Wilmington, North Carolina for affiliated ball. There is no real news here, but there is a thorough overview of the market, the stadium, and the history–complete with infographics and many awesome images from the days of the Port City Roosters. Wilmington hasn’t had a team since the Waves, who played one season in 2001. The one thing missing in the Wilmington equation, of course, is a team. The Carolina League is pretty robust these days, but the Lynchburg Hillcats (flagging attendance, aging stadium) are probably the most likely mover if it should come to that.
A few years ago, there was a bunch of talk involving affiliated ball coming to Wilmington. I remember one scenario in which the Binghamton Mets would’ve “moved” to Wilmington, Delaware (confused yet?), effectively promoting the Carolina League’s Blue Rocks to the Eastern League. In that scenario, a Wilmington (North Carolina) team would’ve replaced the Wilmington (Delaware) team at the High-A level. Another rumor had the Braves buying the Hillcats and moving them to Wilmington, but that fizzled and Atlanta turned to the Florida State League.
Speaking of which, the last OMNI covered how the Florida Fire Frogs are expected to vacate Osceola County, and now it is official. In April, I noted how the team could be moved to the Braves’ new Spring Training complex in North Port, and it looks like that thought has legs, but with an asterisk. Here’s a quote from the Ballpark Digest article: “While there certainly would be some territorial issues with a move to North Port (the new ballpark is in southern Sarasota County, about ten miles from Charlotte Sports Park, home of the FSL’s Charlotte Stone Crabs and spring home of the Tampa Bay Rays, there’s no doubt North Port is an option.” I’ll be keeping a close eye on this one.
In other ballpark news, it looks like the Potomac Nationals’ move to Fredericksburg may be delayed till 2021. The current lease at the Pfitz in Woodbridge is good through 2020, so I don’t see any reason why they would rush construction and the new brand. Either way, the P-Nats remain Critically Endangered.
Some more ballpark news comes out of Alabama, where Huntsville’s Joe Davis Stadium has apparently completely deteriorated. As recently as five years ago, the Huntsville Stars were competing in the Southern League. Future MLB All-Star Mitch Haniger was on the squad that year. Visiting Tennessee Smokies star Kris Bryant hit a homer out of the Joe. Now half the outfield fence is gone. Crazy.
Some kinda neat news out of the Appalachian League, as the league has started a Hall of Fame. Since this is the inaugural class, they get to skim the cream. All inductees are already Cooperstowners: Greg Maddux (Pikeville Cubs), Eddie Murray (Bluefield Orioles), Kirby Puckett (Elizabethton Twins), Cal Ripken, Jr. (Bluefield), Nolan Ryan (Marion Mets), Jim Thome (Burlington Indians), and Alan Trammell (Bristol Tigers). I’m not sure who will be left for next year’s class. Bartolo Colon?
In nickname news, the Pawtucket/Worcester franchise has trademarked some monikers: the Worcester Worcesters, Worcester Ruby Legs, and Worcester Wicked Worms. I’m not going to wring my hands about some trademarks–after all, they might only use these for throwbacks or alternate identities. The Worcesters and Ruby Legs were names of teams from about 100 years ago, and Wicked Worms might be thrown in there intentionally for publicity. Ruby Legs would be almost a retroactive DimDer given the similarities with Red Sox, so that would be kind of cool. If they actually went with Worcester Worcesters, I would be very impressed. Instead, I expect it will be the Worcester Red Sox. Or just go with Worcester Polar Sox so the brand matches the stadium. That was a joke.
The Southern League’s Jackson Generals of Tennessee recently faced off against the Mississippi Braves, who were wearing their Jackson Generals of Mississippi throwbacks. The Generals vs. Generals match-up didn’t disappoint. It’s kind of weird to see an authentic-looking nineties-era Generals jersey with the M-Braves logo on the sleeve.
Hmm. Well, that’s about all the news I got.
I usually don’t riff on things like merchandise releases, but since news was light these few months, I’ll comment on some cool cap reproductions.
First up is Ebbets Field Flannels, who always bring the goods. Ebbets released a bunch of new caps earlier this summer, but a few especially caught my eye. Two caps are old versions of team identities that we have seen in modern times–the Albuquerque Dukes and Colorado Springs Sky Sox. The 1951 Albuquerque cap in particular sheds some light on what the old Hersh Martin era Dukes wore in those days. Awesome. The other cap that will eventually find its way into the DIA is that of the St. Cloud Rox, an old Northern League team. This parent club-inspired cap is from the early Sixties, a time when the Rox were a Cubs affiliate and the Northern League miraculously survived the Upheaval.
Meanwhile, the head office of Minor League Baseball released a new batch of their Hometown Collection (“vintage reinvented”) gear. I have a ridiculous attitude about the Hometown Collection products. On the one hand, I think they do a terrific job resurrecting these trademarks and if I were a casual minor league fan, I’d be all in. On the other hand, sometimes I’m like “I knew about that team before anyone else did. Hmph.” If I were rich, I would hire a counselor and work through these issues. And I’d be sitting there in the therapy session wearing these awesome items from the Key West Conchs, a mostly independent club that raised a little shell in the Florida State League in the early seventies. It’s hard to find images of this team otherwise, so kudos to the Hometown Collection team for conking us over the head with these groovy threads. Dig.
If you are familiar with the DIA, you’ve probably noticed that most team entries have lists of players who are notable in some way. The most common selection criteria for these lists is appearance in at least one MLB All-Star game. As such, each summer I go through the All-Star rosters and look up the minor league careers of first-time All-Stars and add their names to any applicable team entries. The rosters haven’t been completely finalized as of this writing, but we know that there will be four first-timers who are starting in Cleveland: Carlos Santana, Jorge Polanco, Ketel Marte, and Ronald Acuna, Jr.
I was surprised to see that this was Santana’s first selection. He’s been around for a while and has been good enough that he was already on the lists of some of the DIA teams: the Vero Beach Dodgers, Kinston Indians, and Akron Aeros. Polanco came up with the Twins and was a member of one team in the DIA, the New Britain Rock Cats. Marte is having an under-the-radar breakout season. Though he has been a member of several MiLB teams (Mariners system), the High Desert Mavericks are the only one in the DIA. Acuña, despite being such a youngster, already has one defunct team on his played-for list. He was a member of the Gwinnett Braves in their one season before turning into the Stripers.
Going over the starters is a good start. There are plenty of other first-timers already named as reserves, and then there are always replacements for players who opt not to play. I’ll wait until July to review those players and then circle back at the end of summer for another OMNI.