Well, it seems like the pieces are coming together after we lost the Braves to Gwinnett County.
Today’s T-D seems to make official all of the speculation: Bryan Bostic’s group has made an offer to purchase a franchise. They can’t say which one – but the T-D says it’s the Connecticut Defenders of the Eastern League (double-A), and that was pretty much the one everyone thought it might be.
The most authoritative Internet site on Minor League Ball, Mike McCann’s Minor League Baseball Page, already lists the move as a done deal.
The Defenders would play 2009 in Norwich, CT, then move to the Diamond in 2010. The franchise has a 2-year Player Development Contract with San Francisco, which would be valid through the 2010 season here.
The Washington Nationals’ PDC with Harrisburg of the Eastern League expires after the 2010 season as well. So… anyone ready for the Richmond Nationals’ opening day in April 2011? 🙂
If all goes well, the Richmond franchise would move to a new Shockoe Bottom ballpark in 2012. If all doesn’t go well, it might be a year or two longer.
No word on whether the independent Atlantic League will play some games in Richmond in 2009, as was previously speculated.
Some background on the Eastern League: Richmond would be the southernmost franchise in the league. Current teams are located in Akron (OH), Altoona (PA), Binghamton (NY), Bowie (MD), Erie (PA), Harrisburg (PA), New Britain (CT), Manchester (NH), Portland (ME), Reading (PA), Trenton (NJ), and the lame-duck Norwich (CT) franchise. Clearly, Richmond and Bowie would be paired off for travel purposes – visiting teams would often play back-to-back series in both cities – but travel for a Richmond Eastern League franchise would be… extensive.
Keeping in mind that double-A baseball is the real developmental level these days – triple-A (where the R-Braves were) is more of a parking lot for has-beens and never-weres – this might lead to more exciting, and competitive, baseball. One can only hope.