Checking in on Dodgers Minor League off-season activity

While waiting for things to happen with the Dodgers at the winter meetings I decided to have a look to see what has happened with the Dodgers full season minor league affiliates since the 2016 season ground to a halt.

It certainly was not a surprise here that Minor League Baseball was recently named the league with the “most family-friendly game/event experience” in the 12th annual Sports Business Journal/Sports Business Daily Reader Survey. The online surveys were conducted from Oct. 17 to Nov. 4, 2016, with more than 1,000 subscribers having participated. This is the second consecutive year where Minor League Baseball was voted first in this category.

With the excellence of the product on the field, the fan friendly environments and promotions along with absolutely the best cost efficient entertainment for young families, minor league baseball continued to grow in 2016 topping 41,000,000 fans for the 12th consecutive year.

Although one would think that minor league baseball goes dormant in the off-season nothing could be further from the truth.

The 2017 minor league schedules have been released with play beginning for all four Dodger full season affiliates on Thursday, April 6.

  • Great Lakes Loons at home vs Lansing Lugnuts
  • Rancho Cucamonga Quakes away at Stockton Ports
  • Tulsa Drillers away at Midland RockHounds
  • OKC Dodgers home vs Iowa Cubs

Great Lakes Loons:

The Loons, although they won the 2016 Midwest League Championship, did not have a member on the postseason All-Star team.

The playing field at Dow Diamond has had a total face lift this fall replacing the sod and improving the drainage system. Tuckahoe Turf Farms was contracted to provide the new sod. This is the same company that provided the playing surfaces for the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and the Philadelphia Phillies.

“It was time for a change and we’re pleased with the decision that has been made,” head groundskeeper Kelly Rensel said. “Some irrigation issues were starting to surface, along with it just being old grass. Starting now in the fall will allow for the roots to take hold.”

Plans are well underway for the 2017 Midwest League All-Star Game activities to be held at Dow Diamond on June 19-20. GoGreat.com and Dow Chemical will partner with the Loons and serve as supporting sponsors for the two-day showcase.

In late October Stadium Journey released its evaluations of 150 minor league baseball stadiums ranking the stadiums in terms of fan experience. Dow Diamond ranked number 14.

“Dow Diamond is a great minor league ballpark. Everything is set up for fans to have a wonderful time at the game. This is both a large park, and a cozy park. The concourses are wide, and the leg room in the seats is a little better than average. There are two fireplaces found behind the home plate area and two fire pits in the outfield concourse. Both are fantastic for cool summer nights, or downright cold spring night games.”

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes:

The Quakes had five of the 14 post-season All-Stars in the California League:

Sborz was also named the California League Pitcher of the Year.

Quakes right-hander Josh Sborz was named the 2017 California League Pitcher of the Year.
(Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

The Quakes have unveiled their ‘25’ logo to commemorate the organization’s 25-year history and season-long celebration beginning in April.

“The Quakes dedicate 2017 to highlighting the standout players and outstanding memories of what will be 25 seasons of Quakes baseball,” Vice President/General Manager Grant Riddle said. “We are excited to showcase our proud history in Rancho Cucamonga and celebrate with our community and fans, starting now with the ’25’ logo.”

The Quakes have received the California League’s Excellence in Marketing and Promotions Award for 2016. Their promotional efforts during the season were rewarded with a direct influence in ticket plan sales, attendance and social media engagement. The award means the Quakes are the California League’s nomination for the 2016 Larry MacPhail award given to a Minor League team who demonstrates outstanding and creative marketing and promotional efforts within its community.

Stadium Journey has ranked LoanMart Field number 18 in its annual evaluation of minor league fields:

“The Quakes continue to be a leader in the California League circuit. Their stadium is perfect because it’s in a highly-populated area that continues to grow, yet manages to provide a feeling of serenity in the ballpark. The Quakes have recently renewed their affiliation with the Dodgers through 2018 to the delight of the locals. The Quakes continue to draw fans from throughout the Inland Empire all the way to L.A. With the unfortunate demise of the High Desert Mavericks, it should be no surprise should the Quakes continue to expand on their fan base.”

Tulsa Drillers:

The Drillers had three post-season All-Stars in the Texas League:

De Jong was also selected as the Texas League Pitcher of the Year while right-hander Brock Stewart was chosen for the MILBY (Minor League Baseball Yearly Award) as the starting pitcher who most dominated in the minors.

Chase De Jong’s 14 wins and 125 strikeouts earned him the 2017 Texas League Pitcher of the Year award.
(Photo credit – Matt Barnard)

In an effort to further fan experience a scoreboard bar is the latest in several off-season projects that have been conducted by the Drillers and the Tulsa Stadium Trust to ensure that ONEOK Field remains one of the finest facilities in the country. Since the stadium’s opening in 2010, other additions have included the kid’s splash zone play area beyond the centerfield wall and the wrap-around video board on the suite level, the first of its kind in minor league baseball.

Stadium Journey has rewarded the efforts to continue building the fan experience with a number 12 ranking among all minor-league stadiums.

“After six years of play, this ballpark still contains its mid-western charm, and is a superb facility with a downtown view, plenty of food and beverage choices and has a family friendly environment in which to take in a minor league baseball game. Drillers’ game day attendance has grown since the opening of ONEOK Field. For the last several seasons, the Drillers have ranged second in total attendance in the Texas League.“

Oklahoma City Dodgers:

Third baseman Rob Segedin was the only Dodger named to the post-season All-Star team.

As with many teams the OKC Dodgers continue to work to improve the fan experience and announced extensive renovations to the Diamond Lounge and Club Level seating area at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark for the 2017 season. Located on the second level of the ballpark, the Diamond Lounge will expand from approximately 2,500 square feet to 5,000 square feet. The project will include removing three suites from behind home plate in order to offer an unencumbered view of the playing field directly from the Diamond Lounge.

“Although we are fortunate to have one of the best facilities in Minor League Baseball, we are always striving to find ways to make it better,” said OKC Dodgers President/General Manager Michael Byrnes. “These renovations will allow us to modernize a key part of the ballpark and enhance the experience for our fans.”

The stadium does make Stadium Journey’s top 20 baseball sites but it does receive a very favorable review.

“The Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark is a ballpark that has received numerous accolades since its opening nearly 20 years ago. It is aging well, and continues to be a great place to take in some minor league baseball at its highest level. The area around the ballpark only serves to make The Brick one of the top destinations on any ballpark chaser’s bucket list. Be sure to give yourself some extra time to explore one of the region’s most underrated cities.”

Rob Segedin’s outstanding work at Triple-A OKC earned him a call-up to the Dodgers, where he promptly etched his name into Dodgers history with four RBIs in his MLB debut on August 7, 2016 to set a new franchise record. (Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

Meanwhile off-season roster building is moving into high gear with the addition of outfielder Stetson Allie, right-handed pitcher Madison Younginer and left-hander Patrick Schuster to the Dodgers roster.

 

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8 Responses to “Checking in on Dodgers Minor League off-season activity”

  1. Ron Cervenka says:

    The Dodgers have acquired Edward Paredes and Kyle Grana in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. No additions or subtractions on the MLB side.

  2. AlwaysCompete says:

    Harold, I could not agree more on the excellence of viewing minor league baseball games live at their stadiums. While I did see the Lancaster Jet Hawks twice in the 90’s, I really did not appreciate minor league baseball until 1997 when I had the great fortune to watch at least one game at every one of the NY-Penn League Stadiums. I followed that up with watching games at each of the South Atlantic League, Florida State League, Eastern League, and International League from 1998-2004, culminating in the 2004 AAA All-Star game in Pawtucket. I also had season tickets for the Sacramento River Cats from 2000 thru 2007. IMO there is no better way to spend your allocated entertainment dollars than at a minor league baseball game.

    While I have never seen the Quakes live, I do plan on attending opening day in Stockton to see the Quakes in action.

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