Batavia For The Birds; Phils Eye Williamsport

It's the time of year for shuffling minor league affiliates and the Phillies are right in the thick of the changes. The next move could be putting their short-season class-A team in Williamsport.

Batavia is officially not an option for the Phillies in 2007. After 19 years of affiliation with the MuckDogs franchise, the Phillies will be moving their short-season Class-A team from Batavia and it looks like they'll land in Williamsport.

The St. Louis Cardinals, who were pushed out of their New York - Penn League affiliation in State College by the Pirates, officially signed a deal to land in Batavia for the next two seasons. The move pretty much guarantees that the Phillies will affiliate with the Williamsport Crosscutters starting with the 2007 season. Williamsport lost their affiliation when the Pirates moved to State College.

The Phillies and Batavia had been affiliated since 1988, but the Phillies have always wanted an opportunity to move their minor league clubs as close to the Philadelphia area as possible. Earlier in the off-season, it was announced that they would abandon the Scranton Wilkes-Barre franchise to eventually have their AAA team based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The team will take a scenic route to Allentown though, playing one season in Ottawa while a new stadium is built in Allentown.

The rest of the Phillies' minor league clubs appear set to stay where they are, possibly for a long time. The Reading Phillies (AA) have a great working relationship with the Phillies and don't figure to be headed anywhere else anytime soon. There is also a working relationship in place with the South Atlantic League Champion Lakewood BlueClaws, a Class-A affiliate also close enough to the Philadelphia area to keep the team happy. Moving the Clearwater Threshers wouldn't be an option, since they play at the Phillies' spring training facility, making them a lock for the organization.

The Crosscutters play at historic Bowman Field, which opened in 1926 and is considered one of the remaining classic ballparks in minor league history.

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