The Minnesota Twins made it official on Wednesday afternoon in Cedar Rapids with the announcement of a four-year Player Development Agreement with the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
It was an expected announcement that leaves the Snappers searching for a Major League affiliate.
“It’s not a surprise,” Snappers Chairman Dennis Conerton said. “The process ended the way that we thought it would with the Twins. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have done the same thing if I was the Farm Director of the Minnesota Twins and I wanted to develop my players at the best possible venue. I think you have to do that. Cedar Rapids has a very nice facility and it’s closer to the Twin Cities. They have a lot to offer.”
There appear to be three teams that are most likely to align themselves with Beloit: the Oakland Athletics, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. In the shakeup that is effecting many minor league cities, the Angels find themselves searching for a new home after being in Cedar Rapids since 1993.
Houston has been with Lexington of the South Atlantic League since 2001, while the A’s have been in Burlington for just two seasons.
Conerton doesn’t expect to have a decision this week, but does believe an agreement will be reached in the near future with one of the clubs.
“Everyone is talking to everyone else right now and talking about the facilities and what teams have to offer,” Conerton said. “Most of the teams that are looking right now are familiar with Pohlman Field because they’ve played in our league. So we talk to them about what we hope to get done in the off-season and that sort of thing.
“We also talk a lot of logistics like where we house the players, how close we are to airports and things like that. Those discussions have been going on all this week. Things are falling into place pretty quickly here.”
After a 22-year relationship with the Brewers ended in 2004, it was with trepidation that the Snappers took the field with Twins players in 2005. However, attendance numbers remained steady and Conerton is optimistic things will remain the same this time around.
“Any team your affiliate with is going to be good,” he said. “The reason that they have a Major League team is because they have a lot of talent throughout their system. Regardless of the fact that they aren’t located in the Midwest region, we’d be happy with any of the teams that are out there.”
Despite their sub-standard facility, the Snappers do offer some attractive amenities to a Major League club.
“We have a pretty good track record of having host families, where the players live in private homes,” he said. “We’ve offered that for several years for players that would feel comfortable with that. We have a pretty dedicated front office staff. We’ve been complimented on how easy we are to work with. We also have some good transportation to airports even though we don’t have a big airport here in the city.
“We replaced the infield a couple of years ago, and we’ve been told that it’s one of the best infield playing surfaces in the league. Same story with the mound. We’ve been working on getting the outfield in a similar condition and that’s something we hope to get accomplished this off-season.”
The ever-optimistic Conerton sees the affiliation change as an opportunity for development, and something that could potentially spur activity down the road.
“One thing where this could be beneficial is that maybe now some people will see that what the Snappers have been trying to do for the last eight years or so is something that we need to pay a little more attention to,” he said. “But when you see an affiliate leave for facilities that are better, you do start to wonder when the Player Development Agreement is up in 2020 will the standards change at all, and if we were to continue with Minor League Baseball in the Beloit community.”
Most Player Development Contracts recently have been inked for two seasons, and Conerton expects that to be the case when Beloit signs with their new team.
Ironically, the Snappers open the 2013 season in Cedar Rapids against the Kernels, where a host of familiar faces will no doubt be awaiting their arrival.