Baseball Benefits Battle Creek (1999)

From the 1999 Michigan Battle Cats yearbook; page 17:

We’re More Than Just a Game!

The Michigan Battle Cats Baseball Club brings many benefits to our area.

Tangibles

  • $200,000.00 The Entire Battle Cats player payroll is paid by the Houston Astros and spent in the Battle Creek area (Outside money infused into our economy.)
  • $100,000.00 Visitors spend thousands of dollars in area motels, shops and restaurants. (Visiting teams, umpires, scouts, officials, players’ families and fans.)
  • $200,000.00 The Battle Cats employ ten full-time front office staff who live in the area year-round (full-time local jobs are created.)
  • $100,000.00 The Battle Cats employ approximately 50 local people for summer jobs (Teachers, students, senior citizens, and other benefit from these jobs.)
  • $1,000,000.00 The Battle Cats local operation budget is spent almost entirely in the Battle Creek area (This includes transportation, team equipment, stadium and concession supplies, printing, advertising, and more).
  • $1,600,000.00 Total direct economic impact on the Battle Creek area.
  • $4,000,000.00 Total economic impact (2.5 turnover factor)

Intangibles

  • Media coverage brings regional and national attention to our area!
  • The only established professional sports franchise in Calhoun County!
  • Battle Cats players, staff and mascot are involved in the community!
  • Future Major League Stars (Donnie Sadler, Carl Pavano) are here today!
  • The Battle Cats provide wholesome, affordable family entertainment!

We’re Part of the Community!

Again, some hints about the team budget amongst the boosterism, though I’d advise you to take this with a grain of salt. Comparing with the 1976 Danville program’s similar blurb, we see that costs about tripled in two decades. Hmmm.

Minor League Franchise Continuity

If you explore MWLguide.com, you’ll discover that I’ve devoted quite a bit of digital ink to tracking franchise moves. Specifically, every Cities page shows predecessor and successor franchises, and the History pages include charts which explicitly track those changes. It’s easy to take this stuff too seriously, and I occasionally consider deleting it.

On October 10, someone (identified as 192.251.56.254) made several edits to the Wikipedia page devoted to the Great Lakes Loons, a minor league baseball team located in Midland, Michigan. The explanatory note–it reads "07 update"–disguises several revisions to the team history sidebar; in essence, the editor deleted all references in that column to the team’s predecessor franchises. This undid a bunch of changes user Spammeraol had made on August 20 with the explanation "The team was not founded in 2007, they moved and were renamed, the article traces there [sic] history before that." In my opinion, the recent edit is correct, though there’s certainly room for debate.

Edit 12/19/07: I see that the “history” has been restored….


Consider:

From The Sporting News, September 5, 1956 (page 37–mentioned in my previous post):

Paul Friz, who owned the former Terre Haute franchise in the Three-I League, was reported interested in bidding for a berth in the Midwest League next season. Friz headed a delegation of 50 fans from Terre Haute who attended the Mattoon-Paris game, August 25.

And this from TSN of November 27, 1957 (page 51):

The Mattoon Athletic Association has notified President Clarence Hoffman of the Midwest League that it will not operate a club in 1958. Mattoon was the remaining charter member of the league, which was organized in 1947. President Rodger W. Hayes said the decision to withdraw was made with regret.

And on February 26, 1958 (page 29)

[T]he Midwest [League] ([Class] D), which had lost Mattoon, faced the possibility that Lafayette also might drop out of the circuit. President C.C. (Dutch) Hoffman said three former Three-I League (Class A [sic!]) cities–Quincy, Keokuk, and Terre Haute–were hopes to fill any vacancies in the circuit. If none qualify, the Midwest is ready to operate with six clubs, Hoffman said.

Finally, we find this on April 23 (page 33):

The Midwest granted franchises to Waterloo and Keokuk at a meeting at Peoria, Ill. Both Iowa cities formerly were in the Three-I League. Keokuk took the place of Mattoon, while Waterloo was a last-minute replacement for Lafayette. Terre Haute originally had been lined up for the berth, but was unable to follow through with its plans.

Because of the late organization, [the league] delayed their season opening…

The Midwest will play a 126-game split-season, opening on May 4….

All TSN quotes courtesy of Paper of Record.


The Midwest League’s franchise shifts often look too much like this. And we’re not just discussing the (relatively) distant past; the 1992-93 off-season was marred by very similar chaos. This isn’t continuity; it’s improvisation in the face of a crisis. Worrying unduly about franchise succession is an attempt to impose order where the objective reality is disorder.

Perhaps more important, few fans have any interest in this notion of franchise continuity. At the ballpark, the continuity documented in the yearbooks is local; Fort Wayne’s historians document the Daisies, not the Kenosha or Wisconsin Rapids Twins (and certainly not Mattoon!). And Dayton’s fans are far more interested in Jesse Haines than anything that happened in Rockford. This disinterest is reflected in all the other Wikipedia articles on Midwest League towns, none of which pay significant attention to predecessors or successors. At the Wikipedia level, only the Burlington Bees article shows prior history–and that’s a different kind of continuity, with what’s clearly the same team in other leagues.

I have some personal experience with this: I was a season ticket holder in Battle Creek. That’s given me no emotional stake in the successor franchise, Great Lakes, and I rooted against the Springfield and Madison predecessor franchises when they actually existed. I’ve now transferred my loyalties mostly to the Lugnuts, and I root against the Loons.

This is not a claim that these issues have no meaning; as I noted at the top of the page, I’ve devoted considerable effort to documenting the changes. But it’s important only at the league level. Predecessors may merit occasional mentions in team publications, particularly when the franchise is new, but absolutely no one invests any effort in preserving the continuities. Or the Whitecaps’ record book would include Madison’s best players, Kane County would claim Wausau’s won/lost record, and Dayton’s total attendance would include Rockford’s. Not gonna happen, folks.


Just to further confuse things, a note about the supposed history which was deleted from the Wikipedia Loons page: That "history" traces the Midland franchise back to the 1982 Springfield Cardinals. That 1982 team was a Midwest League expansion franchise, but it had a prior history. Springfield had a team in the American Association in 1981. While the Redbirds franchise moved to Louisville for 1982, it’s not unreasonable to count the MWL team as its continuation; it’s certainly how the Springfield fans viewed the situation. To the Loons fans, it’s not particularly important.

Bill Mosiello

I generally spend my lunch hours working on my Midwest League website; while I’m doing that, I often discover information, in some way related to the day’s project, which really doesn’t belong on that site.

I’ve been putting some of those notes on the “What’s Changed” page, but that’s not really a good solution as they age off the page within a few weeks (I think of them as notes to my RSS feed’s subscribers). One of the (many) reasons I’ve decided to resurrect this journal is to provide a platform for those research notes.

Bill Mosiello started the 2004 season as Battle Creek’s hitting coach; in mid-season the Yankees reassigned manager Mitch Seaone to their Tampa baseball complex and promoted Bill to manager. The next year they assigned Bill to Charleston, where he managed for a year and a half–then suddenly left the organization in mid-season to accept a job with the Southern Cal Trojans.

That voluntary mid-season job change is really quite unusual. But changing schools has been Mosiello’s norm; except for a fairly long stint at Oklahoma and his Yankee gig, he’s made a habit of moving to another university every couple years.

While many Midwest League managers have some college coaching experience, Mosiello’s resume is unusual both for the number of schools he’s worked for and the generally high visibility of those baseball programs. Compare, for instance, Bob Herold’s career.

Bill’s moving again, by the way. This time to Auburn.


One more oddity: Not many minor league managers can claim to have been both pitching and hitting coaches. Bill’s reputation is that he’s good in both roles.

Ballgame

After a fairly long break–I’d only been to a pair of games in three weeks–the baseball will be fast & furious for the next fortnight.

Went to Fifth Third Ballpark last night to watch the Whitecaps host the Lugnuts.  It was a silly ballgame.  Lansing won by a 10-6 score and the game was actually less close than the score suggests.  Lansing second baseman Robinson Chirinos was the game’s star–he needed a triple for a cycle in his last AB, but that didn’t work out; all the same, he had three hits, seven total bases, & four ribbies. Needless to say, no one pitched very well; Carlos Marmol got the win, but not because of his own efforts.  The most interesting thing about the game was that relatively few balls were hit on the ground.

West Michigan’s 5/3 BP is not what I’d call a charming yard–really it’s just a big bowl–but it’s a comfortable place.  Kinda like an old sofa.  The Caps don’t really do things differently from the other successful minor league organizations, but they work harder on the ballpark ambiance.  Lansing, in a more interesting ballyard and with a similarly excellent staff, produces a harder-edged experience that’s more exciting but less cozy.  In Battle Creek, the ballpark layout and the small crowds force a focus on the game, which works well for me but less well for the business.  That I think all three are worthwhile should be pretty obvious.

Battle Creek Futures

“Attendance increased in the first two years of our ownership, and our goal is to increase it this year, though people say we’re crazy,” Sailor said. “But it’s always been tough in Battle Creek, and it’s going to continue to be tough unless a local buyer makes a huge commitment to this franchise.
Scott Sailor
BC Yankees Special Projects Director

quoted by Will Lingo in Baseball America

An interesting quotation, with an implication that Riverside Baseball’s looking to sell the team. I fully agree with Scott’s implied point. The problem’s not the Battle Creek audience; it’s that out of town ownership groups have proven not to be trustworthy. In the past eight years the team’s been sold three times (one fell through), and the owners have arranged/agreed to move the team twice (both fell through). Making an emotional investment in this franchise is foolhardy, except for the hardest core of fandom.

By the way: Marion, Illinois, sort of expects to be the next home town for this franchise. We’ll see.

Update 5/18/2004: So does Bowling Green, Kentucky.


Linkage notes: The Baseball America link requires a subscription. The Marion and Bowling Green links have vanished. My apologies….

Ground Rules

Two events from last night’s Fort Wayne/Battle Creek game involved the ground rules at C.O. Brown Stadium.  Both generated some controversy.

Regarding Bryce Kartler’s fifth-inning double (triple?) which eventually resulted in  Mitch Seoane’s ejection, here’s the relevant rule:

6. Bullpen benches:  If ball is on, under or lodged within, it is dead.  If a player digs for the ball, it remains live.  The defense must signal to the umpire or ball is live.

I’m really not sure whether the umpires got the play right, but the bit about defense signalling seems a little odd.  Mitch got a little excited.

Regarding Erold Andrus’ home run which ended the game:

8.  Right and left field:  The second fence and scoreboard are recessed.

Yeah?  So?  That’s a rule?

Source:  2003 Midwest League Media Guide and Record Book

Opening Day

Battle Creek’s Chase Wright pitched well, and looks impressive, but threw too many pitches and was visibly tired by the fifth.  Regardless, Sean Marshall, a lanky guy with some apparent potential, pitched a better game.  The most interesting thing seen was Lansing’s Clay Rapada, who is a radical sidewinder; don’t remember seeing a southpaw throw like that before.  Lansing’s Kyle Boyer had a fine day at the plate.

The Yanks were pretty sloppy in the field, particularly late in the game. 


 A good crowd, by Battle Creek standards.  Noisy, and very much in the game.


A box score, courtesy of ScorePad, a product I can recommend. Drew Larsen’s last name is mispelled, as is Brian Dopirak’s; there may be other errors….

  CO Brown, Thursday, April 08, 2004

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Lansing Lugnuts 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 3 9 0
Battle Creek Yankees 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 2
W: S. Marshall, L: C. Wright, S: W. O’Brien
LAN
Batter AB R H RBI BB SO
Ryan Fitzgerald cf 4 0 1 1 0 1
Robinson Chirinos 2b 4 0 1 0 1 2
Brian Dropirak 1b 5 1 1 0 0 3
Andrew Larson dh 4 0 0 1 0 1
Kevin Collins lf 3 0 1 0 0 1
Tony McQuade lf 1 0 0 0 0 1
Jake Fox c 4 1 0 0 0 1
Kyle Boyer rf 4 1 4 1 0 0
Alfredo Francisco 3b 3 0 0 0 1 1
Carlos Rojas ss 3 0 1 0 0 0
Sean Marshall p 0 0 0 0 0 0
Clay Rapada p 0 0 0 0 0 0
Randy Wells p 0 0 0 0 0 0
Weston O’Brien p 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 35 3 9 3 2 11
Batting
2B: B. Dropirak (Wright)
S: C. Rojas
SF: A. Larson; R. Fitzgerald
RBI: R. Fitzgerald, A. Larson, K. Boyer
2-out RBI: K. Boyer
Scoring position: 1 for 7
Team LOB: 10
Fielding
DP: Chirinos Dropirak (Made off Marshall)
Pitcher IP H R ER BB SO HR
S. Marshall (W) 6.0 3 0 0 0 7 0
C. Rapada 1.0 1 0 0 0 3 0
R. Wells 1.0 0 0 0 1 1 0
W. O’Brien (S) 1.0 0 0 0 1 1 0
Totals 9.0 4 0 0 2 12 0
WP: C. Rapada
Pitches-strikes: S. Marshall 60-49; C. Rapada 19-14; R. Wells 14-9; W. O’Brien 16-10
Ground balls-fly balls: S. Marshall 9-3; C. Rapada 0-0; R. Wells 0-1; W. O’Brien 1-1
Batters faced: S. Marshall 20; C. Rapada 5; R. Wells 4; W. O’Brien 4
BC
Batter AB R H RBI BB SO
Melky Cabrera cf 4 0 1 0 0 1
Hector Made ss 4 0 0 0 0 2
Eric Duncan 3b 4 0 0 0 0 2
Erold Andrus lf 3 0 1 0 1 0
Bryce Kartler dh 3 0 0 0 0 3
Omir Santos c 4 0 1 0 0 1
Estee Harris rf 3 0 0 0 0 1
Luis Robles 1b 2 0 0 0 0 1
Willie Vasquez 0 0 0 0 1 0
John Urick 1b 0 0 0 0 0 0
Rafael Rodriguez 2b 3 0 1 0 0 1
Chase Wright p 0 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Harmsen p 0 0 0 0 0 0
Steven Wiseman p 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 30 0 4 0 2 12
Batting
GIDP: H. Made
Scoring position: 0 for 2
Team LOB: 6
Fielding
E: E. Duncan, E. Harris
Pitcher IP H R ER BB SO HR
C. Wright (L) 6.0 5 1 1 0 6 0
B. Harmsen 2.0 2 2 1 2 2 0
S. Wiseman 1.0 2 0 0 0 3 0
Totals 9.0 9 3 2 2 11 0
WP: C. Wright
HBP: B. Kartler (by Rapada)
Pitches-strikes: C. Wright 85-61; B. Harmsen 34-21; S. Wiseman 20-14
Ground balls-fly balls: C. Wright 5-6; B. Harmsen 2-2; S. Wiseman 0-0
Batters faced: C. Wright 24; B. Harmsen 11; S. Wiseman 5
Game Stats


Umpires: Clint Mahan, Mark Ripperger
Time: 02:20
Attendance: 1360
Weather: Fair 45

Bay City?

Beware: Although there are facts in this essay, much of what follows is speculation.

The Bay City Times is reporting that a minor league team “with a major league affiliation” has approached the city about building a ballpark, probably on the Saginaw River, in time for the 2006 season. By most standards, that has to be treated as a credible rumor. What can we do with this information?


Spotting the most likely league is simple: We’re talking about the Midwest League. There are no other nearby Class A leagues, and the Tri-Cities don’t look viable as a market for the Eastern or International Leagues.

The most likely Midwest League team is the Battle Creek Yankees. It’s not just that are they the only MWL team looking for a new home; it’s that no other MWL team appears even slightly interested in moving. Except–well, I don’t think it’s the Yanks. We’ll return to this.

A thing I want to know: What other towns have been approached? Let’s build a candidate list of perhaps-viable places I’ve heard to be interested in joining the MWL within the past five years:

  • Evansville, Indiana.
  • Dubuque, Iowa (yes, I’ve not written off Dubuque).
  • Keokuk, Iowa (I consider this rumor to be pure speculation, but….)
  • Marion, Illinois.
  • Rockford, Illinois (even with mitigating factors).
  • Traverse City, Michigan (hope never dies, near as I can tell).
  • Oakland County, Michigan (these last two efforts are somewhat related).

Just for kicks, let’s wonder whether Champaign-Urbana has been approached, and whether any of the other Frontier League cities has any interest.

Now, I haven’t heard anything to relate the Bay City story to any of these other towns, but it’s nearly always true that folks trying to move baseball teams play town against town until they get a favorable deal. So I’m very interested if anyone connected to any of these towns has heard, well, rumors….


If not Battle Creek….

We can rule out most MWL teams–they’re playing in very new ballparks and locked into leases. The teams in older ballparks–Beloit, Burlington, and Clinton–are all community-owned, and don’t seem to be for sale. That leaves Battle Creek: The Yanks’ owners are dissatisfied with their current situation, are on a year-to-year lease, and have the MWL’s permission to move the team after the 2004 season.

Ah, there’s the catch: I expect the Yanks to move toward Iowa–I’d guess to Rockford–late this year. Reminder: This is speculation. I have no inside information about their plans.

So what’s going on in Bay City? I think it’s a Sally League team–perhaps the Albany, Georgia, franchise, whose owners have had conversations with Evansville officials in the recent past. The obvious solution to the odd geography of the South Atlantic League would move Lakewood (in suburban Cleveland) and another team to the MWL. I think that’s what we’re going to see, and that this effort is a manifestation of that realignment.


Disclaimer: I’ve made predictions about team relocations before. I’ve been right some of the time….


Late addition: Joyce Higgenbotham, who grew up around the old Kokomo ballpark, was kind enough to point me to an article (no longer available) from the Kokomo Perspective, which certainly implies that Kokomo Parks has had some contact with prospective tenants….


Even later addition (3/28): Howie Magner of the Battle Creek Enquirer reports Scott Sailor’s denial that it’s the BC Yanks. Howie’s discussion of the issue parallels mine.


Still later addition (7/15): Albany team owner David Heller denies my speculation….


Edit 10/1/2007: As we now know, the Battle Creek team eventually moved to Midland, which is close enough to Bay City for most purposes….

BC Yanks to Dubuque: a Quad Cities perspective

The QC Times website has [had] some notes regarding moving the Battle Creek team to Dubuque. It’s a fairly nice piece, though I’d say Michael Gartner’s comparison of the BC baseball heritage with the Dubuque heritage is a little–well, off-target will do.

John Petrakis left delightful memories, but his teams were weak on the business side. I’d certainly hesitate before citing them as precedents in this discussion.