Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cal League Not Interested In E.G./Will A Baseball Stadium Still Work?

Hours after a Citizen story hit the newsstands around Elk Grove Friday the president of the California League emailed that he won't be talking to City officials about their proposed sports complex.

"There have been no discussions whatsoever, and there will not be," Charlie Blaney, president of the Advanced-A Minor League Baseball organization, wrote.

He did not clarify his reason for refusing to talk to Elk Grove city officials, who are seeking ideas for a 100-acre parcel of land at Grantline and Waterman roads. The city seems ready to approve construction and development of much of the land for 12 youth soccer fields along with a multi-purpose building, a play area and parking.

Phase two would call for construction of a multi-purpose stadium and, perhaps, a home for the Sacramento County Fair.

The story in Friday's Citizen indicated an interest by both the Cal League and the city to talk.

Construction of a baseball stadium for a minor league franchise and other local teams makes sense, according to several local and area baseball people, because of the revenue it could bring to Elk Grove.

"There are multiple opportunities for events at a baseball stadium," Joe Matlen, president of the Elk Grove Babe Ruth League, wrote in an email to the Citizen. "I think it has to be done right, though. To draw teams here for tournaments, the field/park would need to be unique and special in the amenities, design, and facilities. You not only want to draw teams in for the first time but make it so they want to come back. I think an average stadium built to minimize costs is probably not going to have a lasting appeal."

Rick Cabral, who writes and manages the blog, "Baseball Sacramento," thinks the apparent withdrawal of the Cal League from consideration for an Elk Grove stadium isn't surprising.

"With territorial rights, it is unlikely the River Cats would approve another team from organized baseball," Cabral said. "It would certainly compete with their ability to draw at Raley Field. Plus, there's the misalignment issue with Bakersfield being in the southern division. The Cal League would probably prefer a replacement team from the SoCal area. That's my guess."

In an earlier interview Blaney admitted territorial rights held by the River Cats over Sacramento County could quickly end the discussion of minor league baseball in Elk Grove.

Elk Grove resident and Sacramento "Bee" contributing writer Mark McDermott thinks the future of the River Cats might be a bit uncertain.

"Attendance has declined and the Giants Triple-A franchise won't win," McDermott wrote in an email. "That's not a profitable combination. The Savages (owners of the River Cats) can reap the rewards of new merchandising and the Giants World Series titles right now, but eventually that excitement will go away."

"Secondly, I know there is group out there that is supposed to start construction of a brand new 3,500-seat baseball stadium in Sacramento as soon as October and will field a summer college team in the Big West League next year."

The River Cats are having one of their poorest seasons on the baseball diamond since their inception in 2000. They were 43-56 and in last place in the Pacific Coast League's Northern Division through July 24. However, they continue to lead the league in attendance, averaging 9, 179 a game.

But, would a baseball park in the proposed Elk Grove sports complex still make some sense?

"Mid-week dates or select weekends could be filled by adult leagues and high schools, but youth leagues would likely not have the money to use it on a regular basis, but perhaps for special events," Matlen said.

Cabral is a bit pessimistic, too.

"Granted I'm not familiar with the EG sports scene, but if there aren't at least three or four leagues/teams screaming for a new facility, it's probably unlikely the city would consider becoming involved," he said.

But, he said getting Elk Grove H.S. alum Scott Boras involved, something could happen at the sports complex for baseball.

"His state high school tournament has become a success, and he might be amendable to discussing the subject," Cabral suggested.

Annually, Boras' organization puts on a 32-team tournament in locations in both southern and northern California. Elk Grove High School has hosted the Northern California portion of the event but games have been played at McAuliffe Fields in Sacramento.

Matlen encourages the baseball interests in Elk Grove to bind together much like soccer has to move the city towards including their sport in the proposed complex.

"We can certainly urge the city, but I think it would take a collaborative effort from the Elk Grove baseball community to have an impact," he wrote.

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