THE STATE OF THE INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE
One of my favorite people in sports is I.L. President, Randy Mobley. I always enjoy our conversations and Randy is always generous with his time. As we embark upon another minor league baseball season, we discussed the direction of the I.L. and what we might expect in 2012.
Several years back, Mobley re-started the I.L. Hall of Fame. Ben Mondor, Joe Morgan and Jim Rice have already been honored and this season, the Hall opens its’ doors to PawSox President, Mike Tamburro. “This one will be a little bit extra special because Mike was in the league when I joined. He was certainly well on the way to getting his career going. Along the way, he’s not only been a guiding force within this league, he’s become a tremendous friend, as well. I could not be happier for Mike and I’m already looking forward to that night at McCoy, on August 4th.” Mobley recalled a time before the PawSox were transformed into the iconic franchise that is so well respected now. “I don’t go back to Ben (Mondor) and Mikes’ earliest days, but my first trip to Pawtucket came back in 1982. It was, of course, the old ballpark. Not as nice or “gussied up” as it is today. Even back then, they were well on their way to winning the community back. The family orientation, the treatment of the fans was number one back then, exactly like it is today.”
Mobley was happy to share some of the things he looks forward to for the upcoming campaign. He felt the thing that would get the most attention was the status of the Scranton Wilkes Barre Yankees. The Yankees will play all 144 of their games on the road this year, while their ballpark undergoes a massive renovation. “That team will not play any games at home this year. Their games will be disbursed throughout the rest of the North Division. That’s going to be a unique situatiion, one that we would hope not to repeat any time soon. We are going to make the best of it. The Rochester club is going to have 109 games played in that ballpark. There’ll be some tired people in Rochester when the season is over, and all is said and done. We think the short term pain is going to be worth the long term gain with a totally renovated facility over there in Scranton.” This season, the club will be known as the “Empire State Yankees.”
Mobleys’ league is ready to host two major events this season. The Triple A All Star game will unfold in Buffalo, while the Triple A National Championship contest will be played in Durham, North Carolina. “In July, Buffalo will host the 25th anniversary All Star game. That’s hard to imagine. They played the very first one there and we’ll play this one back there. It’s going to air on the MLB Network, televised live. We also expect to have 8-10 regular season games televised on the network. Then the National Championship game. We are going to host that this year in September, down in Durham. I know it’s going to be a great event and hopefully, the Governors’ Cup Champion can win again. (Columbus is the reigning National Champ).
With the success of the league, more and more sponsorship opportunities arise and Randy was happy to talk about a new relationship. “We are pleased that we just announced and industry-wide arrrangement within Triple A baseball, with a company out of Montreal. Their headquarters in the United States are in Charleston, South Carolina. Gildan U.S.A., a major manufacturer of T-shirts, socks and underwear. They are going to have a major presence in all 30 Triple A ballparks this year. They’ve actually purchased the title sponsorship to the National championship game. That game, televised in 2011 on the Versus Network, will be aired live on the NBC Sports Network this fall. We have a few things going on that are keeping us busy, buit all in all, it looks like it is going to be another great year.”