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Three New I.L. Ballparks On The Horizon

Dunn Tire Park will be league’s second-oldest ballpark

While franchise shifts, reorganizations, new venues, and nickname changes are all too common in minor league sports, the International League has been remarkably stable, fielding the same divisional lineup of 14 teams since their merger with the American Association back in 1998. But changes are in the wind, and when the dust settles, Buffalo will be the city with the second-oldest ballpark in the I.L., with only Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium older.

John Halama joins Herd

The Ottawa Lynx transferred their franchise to new ownership and relocated to Allentown, Pennsylvania, effective this season, where they are known as the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The team plays at a new ballpark, Coca Cola Park, which opened this past March 30. Designed by HOK Sport and with just under 10,000 fixed seats, the stadium cost over $48 million to build. It boasts many modern amenities common to today’s minor league venues, including club seating and suites and picnic areas, and Lehigh Valley also claims to have the largest scoreboard in minor league baseball.

2009 will see the opening of two new minor league ballparks—Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio, and Gwinnett Stadium in Gwinnett County, Georgia, just northeast of Atlanta.

Huntington Park will replace Columbus’s venerable Cooper Stadium, and is now under construction smack dab in the middle of the city’s exciting Arena District. At a cost of $56 million, the venue was designed by 360 Architecture, the same firm doing the design work for the new Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey.

It is widely expected that the Cleveland Indians will change their AAA affiliation from Buffalo to Columbus and its new ballpark in time for next season.

Meanwhile, the Richmond Braves have announced that this will be their final season in Richmond, Virginia, after numerous attempts to secure a new ballpark to replace the Diamond have met with failure.

Owned by their parent club the Atlanta Braves, the team has secured a site in Buford, Georgia, right off of I-85, and site work has begun for construction of their new venue, which is also slated to open in time for the 2009 baseball season. The G-Braves will be the southernmost outpost for the International league since the 1950s, when yes, Havana, Cuba fielded a team in the league.

Buffalo, Rochester play two epic games

This past week the Rochester Red Wings came to town, and two of the four games offered fans all sorts of moments that this rivalry has enjoyed in the past.

On Wednesday night, the Red Wings went into the ninth inning holding a 6-0 lead, having allowed just four scattered base hits.

But then the Bisons began their improbable comeback. Buffalo scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth, including Jason Copper’s hot shot to right field which almost cleared the fence for the tying home run. Josh Barfield tied it with an RBI single on the next at bat.

In the 10th inning, Rochester would take a 7-6 lead, but Buffalo’s offense came storming back in the bottom of the frame, loading the bases with nobody out, before Brad Snyder launched a long fly ball over a drawn-in, five-man infield to win the game 8-7.

On Friday, a great crowd of over 12,000 saw the Herd blow a great save opportunity when Rochester’s Howie Clark hit a two-run homer to tie the game at three in the ninth.

This one would go 11 innings before Rochester, using seven pitchers and frustrating the fans with endless pitching changes and mound conferences, took a 4-3 lead. Buffalo again loaded the bases in the bottom of the 11th, when one of Wednesday’s heroes, Josh Barfield, came to the plate. But this time Barfield struck out and Rochester escaped with the win.

AAA All-Star Game online voting begins

Bisons fans will once again be able to participate in voting for their favorite players to be named to the AAA All-Star team. The game will take place in Louisville, Kentucky, on July 16.

Fan balloting will account for one third of the total vote, with the remaining ballots being cast by members of the media as well as each club’s field manager, coaches, and general manager.

Since the inception of the AAA All-Star game in 1988, the Buffalo Bisons have sent the most all stars to the event, a total of 42 players, including such names as Jay Bell, Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Giles, Richie Sexson, Jhonny Peralta, and Ryan Garko.

Fans can access ballots at or at

John Halama joins Herd

The newest pitching acquisition for the Bisons is 36-year-old John Halama, who joined the team in Pawtucket this past Sunday. Halama spent nine seasons in the majors with six different teams, compiling a record of 56-48 with a 4.65 ERA.

Diehard Bisons fans remember Halama best as the pitcher for New Orleans in the 1998 AAA World Series in Las Vegas against the Bisons. In game one of that series he pitched a complete game four-hitter against Buffalo in a 7-2 win. The Zephyrs would then go on to win that series three games to one.

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