Beloit, Oakland A’s make deal for 2013

No, Brad Pitt won’t be making any appearances at Pohlman Field in 2013. And it’s highly unlikely Phillip Seymour Hoffman will be managing next year’s Beloit Snappers.

Moneyball, however, is headed to Beloit.

The Snappers and the Oakland Athletics reached an agreement Tuesday on a two-year player development contract that runs through 2014. The A’s unique philosophy on procuring and developing talent was made famous first by a best-selling book and later a highly regarded film.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Snappers Chairman Dennis Conerton. “They are going to be a great organization to work with. I can feel that already. They are good people and experienced people which is what we are used to with the Twins. I think it’ll be a great relationship.”

The A’s are familiar with the Midwest League as they have been aligned with the Burlington Bees the past two seasons, the Kane County Cougars from 2003-2010 and Madison Muskies before that.

“They were familiar with our area and our league, obviously,” Conerton said. “They really wanted to play here and we are excited to be with them.”

The process of wooing a team is not a familiar one to the Snappers, who have had just two affiliates in their 31-year history.

This time, however, things went very smoothly.

“When we got the list of teams that had not signed a PDC, we sat down and sort of did an informal ranking of the teams in terms of what we knew,” Conerton said. “And I’m quite pleased to say that Oakland was right up there at the top of the list. They have a good farm system, and we liked that they are a relatively small market in the Major Leagues just like we are here.”

The A’s main contacts with the Snappers will be Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman and Director of Minor League Operations Ted Polakowski.

Lieppman has been with the A’s organization for a remarkable 42 years, including the past 21 in his current post. Polakowski is in his 30th year in the organization and 14th in his current role.

“Lieppman is very similar from a professional standpoint to Jim Rantz, the Twins Director of Player Development,” Conerton said. “They both actually received a similar award for service to their industry not too many years apart and they have a great support system when it comes to their minor league department.”

The clubs briefly discussed a four-year option before settling on the standard two-year agreement.

“They actually just went through this with their rookie ball affiliate in Vermont,” Conerton said. “They signed a two-year contract with them after the 2010 season, but early this year they both liked the relationship enough that they signed a two-year extension. Hopefully something similar will happen in our case.”

Because of their lower attendance and lack of a big-money television contract, the A’s are an organization that prides itself on promoting from within.

The current team, however, doesn’t fit that mold. Just one member of the A’s starting rotation is a homegrown product, and just three of their nine regulars were developed from within.

Conerton says they have a history of fielding competitive teams in the MWL and their aggressive promotion system ensures the team will see many new faces over the course of a season.

Last year, Burlington finished with an overall mark of 67-72, losing eight of their final 10 games of the season. The Bees made the playoffs, but fell to Wisconsin in the first round.

Meanwhile the Short-Season Vermont Lake Monsters finished with a final record of 33-43 in the New York-Penn League.

A few members of the Athletics brass will be brought in for a press conference sometime in mid-October, which will give them a chance to get a better feel for the community.

“They obviously are familiar with the facility because they have been in the league so long,” Conerton said. “But we wanted to give them the chance to meet some community leaders and give the media a chance to get some face to face time with them as well.”

Conerton hopes the working relationship when play begins in earnest April 4 will be as productive and amiable as the process has been in setting up the relationship.

“It turned out that they liked us and we liked them. It turned out to be a very pleasant discussion and I think both sides are happy to go forward.”

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