Diamond Jaxx GM Discusses Uncertain Future of

JACKSON, Tenn. -- For weeks now, the future of the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx has remained uncertain and, at times, bleak. Plagued by attendance woes and little media coverage, team owner Bob Lozinak of Lozinak Baseball Properties, LLC notified the city of Jackson, Tenn. of his intent to move the Diamond Jaxx out of the area at the conclusion of the 2005 season, in a letter dated Jan. 28.

In the letter, Lozinak, who purchased the team in 2002, claimed he had posted "significant operating losses," totaling over $1 million in the last two years.

Three days after receiving the letter, the city issued a statement announcing plans to exercise its contractual right to organize a group of investors to purchase the team for a sum of $11,347,500. The Lozinaks lease with the city states the team can be moved out of Jackson if significant losses are posted. However, the lease also states that the city has the option of either purchasing the team or locating a group of investors to make purchase, so long as they do so by a March 13 deadline (45 days after the team originally notified the city of its plans to relocate).

Should the city announce plans to purchase the Diamond Jaxx by that date, it has an additional 60 days to finalize the sale. If it cannot, the Lozinaks can move the team, pending approval from Minor League Baseball and the Double-A Southern League.

Diamond Jaxx General Manager Jeff Parker spoke with Inside The Ivy Tuesday to discuss recent developments.

"I'm not sure what the city's plans are, or if they have a buyer or not," said Parker. "I know they have a special meeting scheduled for (today) and that we are at the top of their agenda."

Weeks ago, the Jaxx submitted a request to move the team to Mauldin, S.C., but Minor League Baseball denied the bid and chose the new Greenville-based Class-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox over both West Tenn and the Class-A Hagerstown Suns. The three clubs each had plans to move into adjourning areas, but by rule no more than one team can occupy a county or bordering counties.

"We enacted a right of first refusal (with the city)," said Parker. "(South Carolina) was a three-horse race and we hit some mud on one of the turns. We were disappointed to find out that we didn't get the territory, but we're big boys and we understand we have to move on."

Asked if he could reveal other possible destinations the club is considering, Parker replied, "I'm reluctant to say, only because when you're at the bottom of the attendance pile, you get lots of calls from various municipalities wanting a Double-A affiliate in one area or another. The Cubs' Double-A team is one of those rare instances where you can put it anywhere and get good support."

Well, anywhere but Jackson apparently. Last season, the Diamond Jaxx drew only 159,308 fans for the year, an average of just 2,528 per game. For a Southern League affiliate, only the Greenville Braves, who relocated to Pearl, Miss. after the 2004 season, drew fewer fans.

Still, Parker remains optimistic, noting, "Our options are pretty good. We like to involve the Cubs' player development department on this, and they've already told us they'd support relocation if that's what we need to do."

Parker also added there is still hope that all of this will serve as a wakeup call for the city of Jackson, and he hopes they show support.

"We knew when we bought this club that it was in the tank," Parker said. "We were hoping to turn it around, but so far we've fallen short. I think there may be some positives that can come out of this from the local community's perspective."

"But," he says, "we've had a lot of calls from other municipal groups, and I can tell you that very few of them are interested in keeping a team in this area."

Parker then added that both Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry and Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita understood the club's situation.

"Those guys come to the ballpark and see what we're dealing with, and they know what kind of efforts we've made to get people back in here," said Parker. "At this level, they want their kids playing in front of big crowds and a market that will attract some media attention. They're well aware of our efforts and support them in every way they can, which is why we keep them in the loop.

"We'll see what transpires, and we'll certainly keep doing our best to push people in here."

In an Associated Press report dated Feb. 11, Mauldin mayor R.C. Jones claimed the Jaxx were denied relocation to his area because the team owed $5.5 million on its stadium in Jackson, Pringles Park. But when reached for comment, a source with Minor League Baseball told Inside The Ivy:

"There were several factors that went into the decision, but those have not been published. It was an overall process of looking at all three teams and what they wanted to do, because they were going to go to three different areas. The territorial rights go by county, and all three teams were competing on an inner-city level and going into the same general area. They were not all identical situations, as there were stadium issues, and where they would fit in different communities. The city of Greenville wanted to go into the nearby town of Mauldin, and the others wanted to go into Anderson and Spartanburg counties, which are roughly all part of the same area."

Calls to Jackson mayor Charles Farmer's office were not immediately returned Tuesday.

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