Minor League Sports

Pro baseball notebook: Beloit sets Labor Day deadline to find funding for new ballpark

Otherwise the Snappers will be sold to the highest bidder, with a move to another city nearly certain

Beloit Snappers closing pitcher Jean Ruiz (center) celebrates with teammates the Snappers win over the Cedar Rapids Kernels their Midwest Baseball League baseball game at Veterans Memorial Stadium on June 27, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Beloit Snappers closing pitcher Jean Ruiz (center) celebrates with teammates the Snappers win over the Cedar Rapids Kernels their Midwest Baseball League baseball game at Veterans Memorial Stadium on June 27, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Beloit Snappers are down a run. Perhaps two or three.

The fate of the Midwest League franchise will be decided by Labor Day, according to a report last week in the Beloit Daily News.

The newspaper reported the club has decided it has until Sept. 3 to secure funding for a new ballpark in the Wisconsin city. If it doesn’t, ownership will put the franchise up for sale to the highest bidder.

The new owners would then decide where it will be located.

“We’ve worked really hard to come up with an investor or group of investors who will keep the Snappers in Beloit by building a state-of-the-art stadium,” Stadium Committee Chairman Jim Agate told the Dailey News. “We have met with several individuals and groups, and we’ve had some close calls, but, unfortunately, so far nothing has worked out.”

Beloit is a community-owned, non-profit franchise, like the Cedar Rapids Kernels, joining the MWL in 1982. It plays at Pohlman Field, a 3,501-seat stadium that does not meet minimum requirements for things such as lighting and clubhouse space, as set out by a national agreement between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball.

The Snappers continue to get grandfathered in to remain an affiliated club, however that likely will change when MLB and MiLB’s contract expires after the 2020 season and a new one is negotiated. Beloit is last in the Midwest League in attendance at 783 fans per game.

On the other end of the spectrum, for comparison, is league-leader Dayton at 7,815. The Kernels are averaging 2,148 fans a game.

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“Anyone in pro baseball knows it’s all about the experience, not just the baseball, and with what we have now at Pohlman Field we’re not offering the kind of experience we would in a new stadium,” Agate told the Beloit Daily News.

Beloit has attempted to find funds for a new ballpark for years but has never been able to do so. Ownership has now set what it says is a final, drop-dead date.

Build a new stadium, or the team almost certainly will move.

“Minor League Baseball has gone out of its way to help us,” Agate told the Daily News. “We’ve kept (MWL) President Dick Nussbaum apprised nearly day-to-day where we are. Labor Day, though, looks like our final deadline. If nothing works out, we will hire a broker and look to sell the team to the highest bidder. We would do that instead of just letting the league take the team away from us. It would be the smart thing to do. One way or another I think we’ll have a decision by Labor Day.”

Royce Lewis lighting up High-A

Shortstop Royce Lewis has thus far made a seamless transition to another level of baseball. The first-overall draft pick last year had five RBIs Friday night as Fort Myers beat Lakeland, continuing his success since being promoted last week from the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

Lewis is 10-for-28 (.357 average) in seven games in the high-Class A Florida State League.

With the Kernels, the 19-year-old hit .315 in 75 games, with 23 doubles, nine homers, 53 RBIs and 22 stolen bases.

Through Friday, Lewis and current Miracle teammate/former Kernels teammate Alex Kirilloff still had enough at-bats to rank first and third, respectively, in the Midwest League in batting average.

Kirilloff, who was promoted to Fort Myers after the MWL All-Star Game in June, had a .333 average with C.R. and was hitting .324 in 26 games at Fort Myers.

I-Cubs player hits for cycle

Ryan Court became the first member of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs to hit for the cycle when he did so Friday night against New Orleans at Principal Park in Des Moines.

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The 30-year-old shortstop completed his cycle with a triple in his final at-bat in the eighth innings.

Court is hitting .272 in 74 games this season for the I-Cubs. He has been in pro ball since 2011, originally a 23rd-round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Illinois State.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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