With Sam Lynn Ballpark not meeting professional baseball standards for a venue, Cal League President Charlie Blaney says the search is on for a new home for the Bakersfield Blaze (High Class A; California League).
For the past several years keeping the Blaze at Sam Lynn Ballpark was contingent on a new ballpark in Bakersfield. Former owners Gene Voiland and Chad Hathaway were working on a privately financed facility, but those efforts fell short after the pair raised $18 million; they also returned the team to D.G. Elmore per a clause in the 2012 team sale. Now that a new-ballpark proposal is dead in the waters, Blaney says it's time to leave the old ballpark and seek a new home, per the Bakersfield Californian:
"We wish we didn’t have to look elsewhere because our hope has always been to stay in Bakersfield,” Blaney said, adding he holds out hope that money to build a new stadium will come forward.
Realistically, there's not another community in California clamoring to build a new ballpark for pro baseball, especially after the state ended the use of city and county redevelopment agencies. And while it still may be possible to revive the Bakersfield ballpark plan -- we hear it was financially much closer to becoming a reality, based on a prospective naming-rights deal -- it doesn't sound like there's any belief from all involved that a deal can be reached.
So, if you're not going to find a California home for the Blaze, that really leaves one big option on the table: explore a shift of the Blaze and another Cal League team to the Carolina League. It's been discussed in the past, and we've heard from several owners that they expect it to be a prime topic of conversation at the upcoming Winter Meetings. It would involve the sale of two teams and the shift of the franchises to the Carolina League, where there are plenty of cities -- Kinston, Hagerstown, Columbia -- seeking a Class A-level team.
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