The agreement, which hinged on the City of Visalia's pledge to continue to bring Oaks
Ballpark into compliance with MLB facility standards, represents a major victory for baseball in
"We are happy to have developed a good relationship in Visalia as a central part of our development system," said A.J. Hinch, Director of Player Development for the Diamondbacks. "We are encouraged about the renovation project, and we look forward to our future in Visalia."
Ballpark Renovation Paying Dividends
The Oaks have worked with City officials and Diamondbacks personnel for several months in efforts to bring historic Recreation Park closer to compliance with Professional Baseball facility standards.
The future renovations will continue a period of sustained improvement, which have included the new home clubhouse (2006), renovated visitors' clubhouse (2007), new fog-misted party areas down the left field line (2003-2008), new bullpens and improved lighting (2008), and, of course, the major expansion down the right field line which will be completed later this year. Arizona's renewal is proof that the city's commitment has already paid dividends; previous affiliates (Oakland, 2002, Colorado, 2004, and Tampa Bay, 2006) each chose not to renew at the end of their contracts due to substandard facilities.
Location, Location, Location
Oaks President Tom Seidler was ecstatic about the renewal, and named geography as one of the primary reasons. "We are thrilled to continue as part of the Diamondbacks family," he said. "First, they're a class organization with a stated and practiced commitment to their farm system. Second, they're the best fit geographically; the fact that their Spring Training and major league facilities are in Arizona, along with their frequent visits to the West Coast to face NL West rivals, allows fans in the Central Valley to stay connected with Oaks past, present & future."
Visalia also figures to benefit from more rehab appearances by major leaguers over the coming years. The past two seasons have seen visits from Randy Johnson, Jeff DaVanon, Eric Byrnes, and Chris Snyder; with Arizona's AAA farm club moving from Tucson to Reno in 2009, Visalia will become a more convenient rehab location and will likely see an even larger annual stream of D-backs players.
Recent Success, Future Promise
Visalia has enjoyed its first two years with Arizona, as the 2007 Oaks claimed the 2nd Half North Division Championship and came within one playoff win of the championship series. Justin Upton made his major league debut late in the year after beginning the season in Visalia, and has been a consistent starter in Arizona's outfield this year. Cesar Valdez, who posted a stellar first half of 2008 with the Oaks before his promotion to AA Mobile, has been named among the top 50 prospects in the Minors by Minor League News. Another highly-touted draft choice, Barry Enright, has steadily improved with the Oaks this year. Other top prospects, such as Matt Torra, Brett Anderson, and Gerardo Parra, have also passed through Visalia.
The next two years promise to bring more great young prospects to Tulare County's only professional sports team, as Jarrod Parker (1st round pick, 2007), Daniel Schlereth (1st round, 2008), and other members of the D-Backs' 2008 draft class figure to feature at Recreation Park in the coming seasons.
The Oaks look forward to two more years of quality, exciting, and winning partnership with the Arizona Diamondbacks as Visalia Baseball enters an exciting new era.
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