Lehigh Valley Prepares For AAA Baseball

After a long absence, affiliated minor league baseball returns to the Allentown, Pennsylvania area in 2008. The fans are ready and the team's front office is starting to take shape.

For many years, the Allentown area was home to affiliated minor league baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals had a minor league franchise in town - actually, just outside of Allentown, in Whitehall - and the Boston Red Sox followed the Cards into the area in 1958. The Red Sox left after the 1960 season and the area has been devoid of affiliated ball ever since. The closest franchise is in Reading, home of the AA Reading Phillies.

Now, with Reading owner Craig Stein teaming up with Trenton Thunder owner Joe Finley, baseball is headed back to the area when they bring their newly acquired Ottawa Lynx team to Allentown for the 2008 season. The team will not carry the Allentown moniker as part of their name, opting instead to use Lehigh Valley - an area comprised roughly of the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton - as the team's location name. The nickname will be picked through a contest in conjunction with the Morning Call, the area's largest newspaper.

On Wednesday, the team announced that Chuck Domino, who is the president of the Reading Phillies, will also take over as president of the Lehigh Valley team. Domino is a well respected minor league executive and was recently named Eastern League Executive of the Year for his work as Reading's General Manager. Domino was promoted out of the GMs office recently to take over as president of the R-Phils and now, the Lehigh Valley team.

The Lehigh Valley team also named Kurt Landes as the team's first general manager. Landes had served as the GM of the Hagerstown Suns as well as teams in Erie and Staten Island before getting the job with Lehigh Valley.

As for the stadium, the plan is for the ballpark - which is not yet named or built - to open in 2008. When completed, the stadium will seat over 10,000 fans and will carry a retro look and feel.

Once the team arrives, the Phillies will have their top farm club just a little more than an hour away from Citizens Bank Park. The move follows bringing their Class-A club, the Lakewood BlueClaws, much closer than their former home in Spartanburg, South Carolina (the Piedmont Boll Weevils) and their move recently to affiliate with Williamsport rather than Batavia in the New York - Penn League.

In 2007 though, the Phillies' AAA team will play in Ottawa. Much like the debacle with baseball in Montreal, baseball in Ottawa has had an up and down history. Much of the history lately has been down; very down. That's why Stein and Finley were able to buy the team and make the move to the Lehigh Valley.

Philadelphia's move to Ottawa and eventual move to the Lehigh Valley presents another interesting scenario. To make the move, the Phillies left Scranton Wilkes-Barre, which is located just about an hour north of the Lehigh Valley. The New York Yankees quickly jumped into Scranton, which will set up a nice, natural rivalry between the two International League teams beginning in 2008. Just another added feature of the recent Phillies' minor league shuffle.

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