While Minor League Baseball will sadly look quite different this year, there are some things to look forward to. We have new ballparks opening up, a couple of them I am really excited about. On the Wisconsin-Illinois border is the small city of Beloit and they will get some sweet new digs as their basic, boring and outdated ballpark from the 1980s gets replaced by ABC Supply Stadium. It looks great and fans can add in the Northwoods League for a nice little Madison-Beloit-Rockford trip. Going along with a new stadium is a new team as the Gastonia Honey Hunters (yup, that’s Brandiose) will join the Atlantic League. Their ballpark will anchor a mixed-use district and it also means that their Coastal Plain League team will no longer be playing from the city’s American Legion park. Finally, we have the city of Worcester, who just rolled over and welcomed the already rich Red Sox by giving them a buttload of free money when it comes to Polar Park. Yes, this type of stuff happens all the time, but this one is a little harder to swallow since it’s one of the world’s most profitable franchises and Rhode Island already told them to go F*** themselves. Polar Park also means we say goodbye to Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium, one of the very few old-timey ballparks left in the Minors.
Let’s not forget that there were other ballpark “openings” last year. Fredericksburg, Huntsville, Kannapolis and Wichita all had new digs and hopefully this summer, they can enjoy them a little bit more than last season. As for the teams we say goodbye to thanks to MLB’s restructuring, many of them have found other league homes. Other stadiums will find use from a nearby college. However, the ballparks that will not have baseball for the foreseeable future include Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium, The Ballpark at Jackson (TN), Norwich’s Dodd Stadium and Staten Island’s Ballpark at St George. Those sadly have been removed from The List.
At the College level, there are a couple small on-campus fields that have opened at UConn and Omaha. Those seat less than 1,500, but provide a nice setting for each ballclub. The most notable stadium debut is at the University of Florida, which has much improved replacement for the hot and uncomfortable McKethan Stadium. Looks good!