Sunday, May 23, 2010

Good News Out of Scranton

The Yankees moved their Triple-A team from
Columbus, Ohio to PNC Field in Scranton in 2007. The objective was to move closer to New York (about a 2 hour ride) and the Yankee fan base. Replacing the Phillies' Red Barons farm club, the Yankees drew more fans in it's first 2 seasons than the Phillies had attracted in the previous 8 years. Discussions were ongoing about a plan to eventually replace the old and outdated PNC Field with a $50 million miniature Yankee Stadium. How cool would that have been? But instead, politics and a bad economy got in the way, and the plans were put aside.

From there the situation continued to deteriorate. Last year, because of poor drainage, excessive rain caused 7 home games to be canceled or moved. Fans showed up for a scheduled game on July 4th, on a beautiful sunny day, only to be turned away because the field was unplayable. This didn't sit well with fans and they stopped coming to games. The field's drainage problems were corrected during the off season. But the dropping attendance has carried over to this year. The novelty of having the Yankees' Triple-A team so close wore off. In addition, the worsening condition of the stadium and team management's attitude that they only needed to do the minimum to entice fans to come to games, added to the problems. So with the player development contract set to expire on September 2010, the worry was that the Yankees would abandon Scranton.

However, there are many advantages to having a team close for obvious reasons like rehabbing and getting replacement players. It's much easier to shuttle players like Golson, Russo, Melancon, Moeller, Miranda, etc. back and forth to the Stadium. It's also great for Yankee fans who are within a couple hours or less of watching the team's top prospects play in Scranton before they move up to the big leagues.

Overall it's a great experience. Last week I went to the game and walked over to the bullpen to watch Jesus Montero warm up pitching prospect Zach Mcallister. I was literally a couple feet away, listening and watching the ball pop into Montero's glove. Then watching the catching prospect drop to his knees about 20 times practicing how to block pitches in the dirt well after the pitcher and coaches left the bullpen. As for the game itself, there's not a bad seat in the house. You can watch a good game for a reasonable price of $10 to $15.

So the news this week as reported by Donnie Collins about the Yankees and SWB extending their Player Development Contract for four years was great for Yankee fans. In their statement announcing the agreement, the Yankees were open with their intentions of either improving PNC Field or building a new facility.

“We look forward to continuing to work with county leadership and members of the Multi-Purpose Stadium Authority of Lackawanna County to develop a plan to significantly improve the current stadium or replace it with a new one,” Yankees COO Lonn Trost said. “The fans here are great, and we are committed to doing everything possible to provide a high quality family entertainment experience to the residents of Northeast Pennsylvania.”

So the Yankees have pledged their support to help improve or replace the existing complex. We all know if the Yankees are involved we can expect only the best. For now, management at least has listened and they will try to boost attendance with entertainment, fireworks, giveaways, $1 beer and $1 food nights and promoting good play on the field.

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