BY ROSS PRIEST , Assistant sports editor , firstname.lastname@example.org
In late August, Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner described the Bakersfield Blaze and the city of Bakersfield as “the cat with nine lives that’s already used eight of them.”
Make that nine.
On Friday, O’Conner announced in a meeting with league presidents that the shift of two franchises from the California League to the Carolina League for the 2010 season was scrapped until further notice.
Given the economy, the news didn’t come as a surprise to Blaze owner D.G. Elmore. But it doesn’t mean the Class-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers will be staying in Bakersfield for the 2010 season.
“I wouldn’t say we’re homeless,” Elmore said. “We’re living in a shack and trying to find a home.
“We’ve got to find a home that’s appropriate for professional baseball.”
At the root of the Blaze’s potential demise is Sam Lynn Ball Park, the Blaze’s home field that has been a constant sore spot with professional baseball officials. The park opened in 1941 and various proposals to build a new stadium in Bakersfield have failed. Sam Lynn no longer meets facility standards established by organized baseball.
The Blaze and the Texas Rangers are in the third year of a four-year contract. Rangers’ management has already informed MLB and Elmore, their intention to not to return to Bakersfield once the contract expires. “We’re left where we were a year ago,” Elmore said. “The only thing that’s changed is that a year ago, (the situation was) not as much on the radar screens of (Major League Baseball).
“Now it’s going to intensify.”
On Jan. 13, the City Council kept the “hope” of building a ballpark in the future alive, but finances are still the sticking point.
City Manager Alan Tandy said he'd like to see a stadium built, but he's skeptical it could happen. "It could not come at a worse time economically for either the government sector ... or the private sector," Tandy was quoted in the Jan. 14 story in The Californian.
Tandy has continued discussions with Elmore, along with Cal State Bakersfield President Dr. Horace Mitchell and CSUB Athletic Director Rudy Carvajal since it was announced in late August that the Blaze would be leaving Bakersfield at the end of the 2009 season.
“The horrible economy isn’t going to last forever,” Elmore said. “A professional baseball team is something that can last 20, 30 years, even longer.”