As you know, the Reds have moved one of their Class A teams to Bakersfield, CA (from Lynchburg, VA). MiLB.com has some interesting information on the Blaze situation…their park, the community, etc.:
Mavericks, Blaze work within confines
Feeling the heat
Elizabeth Martin, the new general manager of the Bakersfield Blaze, doesn’t mince words when asked to describe Sam Lynn Ballpark. “It’s old and it’s built backward,” she said.
Indeed. The batter faces west at Sam Lynn, forced to look directly into the setting sun. Perhaps as penance for this indiscretion, the 70-year-old facility also boasts the shortest center-field fence, approximately 354 feet, in all of professional baseball ).
These eccentric quirks are trumped by more pressing concerns, however, as the archaic county-owned facility has been widely derided as being unable to meet professional baseball standards. The Blaze’s previous parent club, the Texas Rangers, bolted for Myrtle Beach after the 2010 season. Bakersfield then signed a Player Development Contract with the Cincinnati Reds, a relationship that is the baseball equivalent of being the only two people left in the bar at closing time.
But Martin, who came to the Blaze after an assistant general manager stint with the nearby Visalia Rawhide, says she “loves a good challenge.” And one of the first tasks in this particular challenge is to “put a little extra lipstick on the pig.”
“My goal is to keep [Sam Lynn] as fresh, safe and clean as possible,” she said. “We’re going to do things like repave the parking lot and replace some of the external lights. The neighborhood [around the ballpark] is fine, but we want to increase the comfort level. You wouldn’t go shopping at a store with burned-out lights.”
The cumulative effect of such small improvements shouldn’t be overlooked, but the larger question remains: When, if ever, will Bakersfield get a new stadium?
“We’ve definitely had some good meetings with the folks in charge, but they don’t want to put a ton of money into the facility. It would be very hard to do that and be politically correct,” said Martin, who possesses a law background and helped negotiate the lease of Recreation Park while working in Visalia. “The whole country has been hit hard [economically], but this state is broke and you hear that every day. Right now we’re making a priority list, pinpointing a few things that could be done to make [Sam Lynn] livable.”
And regardless of the stadium situation, there’s plenty of other work to be done.
“This is the first time that Bakersfield has had a true offseason staff, so we’ve been making phone calls, going to community events and putting together sponsorship packages,” said Martin. “Things had been a bit disorganized in the past, so it’s almost like we’re starting out in a new market. But people we talk to are aware that there’s a glorious baseball history here.”
And that’s one of the many positives that Martin and her staff will be focusing on as they try to revitalize one of Minor League Baseball’s most maligned franchises.
“One of the great things about baseball is that there’s room for the old and quirky, and the more we embrace that idea then the better it will be received,” said Martin. “We have a goofy little ballpark, but we love it, and we’re going to project that attitude in everything we do.”
Doesn’t sound like a good situation, does it? Man, I miss the Florida State League.