Northwest League upped to High A, a good Thing?

With the realignment of Minor League Baseball, yours truly mostly sees a negative outcome. But is the promotion of the Northwest League to high A, a bad thing perse? Not really. Here is my take on the development.

The Official Site of the Northwest League | Northwest League
Northwest League promoted to High A

Personally, I think the main challenge the Northwest League will deal with is the weather at the start of the season. Wasn’t there a reason the league was short season in the previous decades? The California League, which place the Northwest League is taking, hardly (if not never) deals with snow on Opening Day. Could this be an issue that has been overlooked by MLB?

But since there have been rumors about MLB lowering the number of games at certain levels, this weather problem can be overcome.

Another issue may be the state of the facilities. For sure one is in a pristine condition: Ron Tonkin Field of the Hillsboro Hops. That ballpark was constructed in 2013 and is in tip top shape as you can see in this virtual tour. Also PK Park, home of the Eugene Emeralds and the University of Oregon, is a relatively new ballpark (as you can see here), constructed in 2009. But the question is if the other ballparks, which are well older than twenty years, will meet the standards of high A baseball, whatever those standards may be. If these ballparks will not meet the High A standards, I assume that these clubs will get some time to make sure they will meet the standards.

On the other hand, if these ballparks would not meet the standards, I don’t think that MLB would not have promoted the Northwest League to High A. But it is also known that MLB just disapproves ballparks because of their age, without even being there. So with Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver, this may become a problem since the ballpark dates back to 1951. MLB seems to forget that fans love this kind of classic ballparks. Pulling affiliated ball from cities only because of the age of a ballpark may alienate Minor League fans from MLB even more.

The promotion form A Short Season, which had a schedule of 2 x 38 games, to High A, which will lead to a schedule of at least 100 games (likely 120 or so), is a big plus for the fans. This promotion means more baseball that can be watched. And be honest, you cannot have enough baseball, can’t you?

To elaborate: With the promotion to High A, the Northwest League may face some issues. Especially inclement weather at the start of the season but also the state of the ballparks/club houses. A big plus is the fact that the fans will have access to more baseball and that may be the most important issue because MiLB teams depend on fans passing the turnstiles.





2 Replies to “Northwest League upped to High A, a good Thing?”

  1. According to the evil plans of MLB, the Lancaster JetHawks will be the odd team out. Visalia will remain in the league. But in the past weeks, MLB has made other moves than expected, so it is all up in the air right now.

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  2. I grew up in Seattle and was a devoted Rainiers fan when they were in the NWL during the Seventies. My main concern going to a full season in the northwest is indeed the weather, especially west of the Cascades. Spokane and Boise should pose no problem but the other four cities can be cold and wet in April. And May. And June. Summer often doesn’t really “start” until the Fourth of July. California? No such problems. You can play year-round in the southern half of that state.

    As for ballparks, though, I’m not concerned. While Nat Bailey Stadium is indeed 70 years old (and Spokane’s facility is over 60 years old), both have been well-maintained over the years. You’ve already mentioned Hillsboro and Eugene, both of which are newer. Everett’s was built in 1947 and is a little smallish but underwent a $5 million renovation in 1998 and had artificial turf installed three years ago. Boise’s ballpark was built in the late 80’s and I don’t know if it’s ever been renovated since.

    I’m pretty sure MLB wouldn’t have created this two-tiered leap for the NWL if they considered the facilities substandard. I do think Low A would be a better fit for the NWL, but here we are. FWIW, my own gut feeling is that Visalia is going to be bumped by Fresno in the Cali League. That ballpark in Visalia is waay too small, even for Low A ball.

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