Two markets that lost Minor League teams — Kissimmee, FL and Fayetteville, NC — look to be regaining them. One would be in an existing ballpark and the other in a brand-new one.
Kissimmee lost its Florida State League team, the Cobras, following the 2000 season. Ironically, as Osceola County Stadium is losing its spring-training tenant (the Astros are moving spring operations to a new two-team complex currently under construction in West Palm Beach), it will be gaining a regular-season occupant in 2017. While the identity of the FSL franchise moving to Kissimmee wasn’t initially revealed, it is being reported that the Brevard County Manatees are the likely candidate. The Manatees have been looking for a new home because the MLB team that uses the facility for spring training, the Nationals, is leaving to join the Astros for spring training in West Palm in 2017. That puts the future of the entire complex in doubt.
Meanwhile in North Carolina, Fayetteville appears to be in the running to obtain a Carolina League franchise. No, not at J.P. Riddle Stadium (see photo), the ballpark that Minor League baseball vacated in 2000, when the Cape Fear Crocs of the South Atlantic League left for Lakewood, NJ. If it happens, it would be in a to-be-built ballpark, probably in the city’s downtown. The reason behind these reports was the visit by Jim Crane, the owner of the Astros, who came to town to scout out possible locations for a park.
Both the Astros and Rangers are unhappy having their High-A affiliates in the California League (Lancaster and High Desert, respectively). Talk of reducing the number of Cal League franchises by two and adding two in the Carolina League (where MLB teams would prefer to have their Minor Leaguers playing) has gone on for years, but until just recently, the concept appeared to be dead.