News, notes and rumblings around the minors

Sun sets in Sussex County
Skylands Park, 2005

I don’t know what it is about expansion and relocation when it comes to sports teams, but it always piques my interest. It doesn’t even matter if the team leaving is hundreds of miles away, or if it’s moving to somewhere else that’s also hundreds of miles away. I guess I just love the newness of it — new uniforms, colors, logos, identity. A new community, new fan base, new history. There’s not a league I could care less about than the NBA, but I still read all about the New Orleans club dropping the Hornets nickname for Pelicans (and I think it’d be boring, lame and a bit disingenuous for the Charlotte Bobcats to change their name to Hornets; it’s been done).

So when there’s talk of expansion or relocation in the minor leagues — the latter of which brought affiliate minor league ball back to New Jersey in the ’90s (to Trenton) and 2001 (to Lakewood); perhaps that’s where the interest comes from — my ears perk up. And there’s been quite a few rumblings in recent weeks involving leagues — and one site — that play in or near New Jersey.

 The New York-Penn League plans to move a club to Morgantown, W. Va., to share a ballpark with West Virginia University. The rumored team to make the shift is the Jamestown Jammers, who were next-to-last in NY-Penn attendance in 2012 (36,078 total, 1,031 per game), besting only their upstate New York neighbors, the Batavia Muckdogs. This would make the New York-Penn League the New York-Penn-Connecticut-Massachusetts-Vermont-Maryland-Ohio-West Virginia League. New Jersey used to be in there, too, before the Cardinals left Sussex County for State College, Pa.

 Speaking of Skylands Park up in Augusta, the new owner is exploring all avenues for a tenant, including summer collegiate leagues. But the ever-expanding Atlantic League may have some interest, too.

 As for the Atlantic League, it could soon find itself with franchises in Fort Worth, Texas (giving the Sugar Land Skeeters a neighbor), and in Virginia Beach and Loudon, Va.

 And, finally, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson continues his push to bring a Double-A Eastern League team to his city to be a Blue Jays affiliate, which will only revive speculation that Binghamton, N.Y., could lose its Eastern League club (and its Mets affiliation, which currently runs through 2016). It appears unlikely that Binghamton would lose affiliated baseball completely, because there remains speculation that NYSEG Stadium could then receive a New York-Penn League team, likely Batavia. This one particularly fascinates me because of the added layer of player development contracts. I looked at some affiliations last February, and though the expiration dates are, well, out of date, few if any of the affiliations changed. I’m curious if PDCs have ever been broken, renegotiated, bought out or even traded before. I’ll try to get in touch with some contacts for some background.

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