January 19, 2007

Mets getting aquainted with their new AAA connections

Lee Jenkins at the NY Times, writes about the Mets embracing their new New Orleans connections:

Mr. Met froze on a balcony above the street. Usually, he does not leave New York and therefore does not require an introduction. But in New Orleans, a city known for its costume parties, he just looked like some guy who decided to dress up as a baseball.

The Mets did not initially want to be here. For 38 years, their Class AAA affiliate was in Norfolk, Va. They helped Norfolk build a stadium. They cultivated Norfolk as a fan base. Their star third baseman, David Wright, grew up going to games in Norfolk.

But after last season, Norfolk dumped the Mets for the Baltimore Orioles. With 10 major-league teams switching Class AAA affiliates, the Mets at least hoped to remain in the International League. They looked at Columbus, Ohio, and Scranton, Pa, but those vacancies were filled. New Orleans plays in the Pacific Coast League, famous for its far-flung cities and brutal road trips. Many big-league teams considering New Orleans for minor-league operations were concerned about the travel, the temptations on Bourbon Street and the post-Katrina logistics.

"I'm not going to tell you it was our first choice," said Jeff Wilpon, the Mets' senior executive vice president. "But in the end, I think we'll look back and see that it was the best choice."

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