Could Joliet land affiliated minor league baseball team?
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org August 26, 2012 10:08PM
The Slammers have struggled to fill seats at Silver Cross Field. | File photo
Updated: September 28, 2012 6:05AM
JOLIET — Joliet needs a team affiliated with Major League Baseball if it wants to fill seats at Silver Cross Field.
At least, that’s been said many times in the last few years as the JackHammers’ business declined and the successor Slammers have struggled to build a new fan base.
The idea was rekindled last week with reports that the Chicago Cubs plan to move their Class A minor league team from Peoria to Geneva, where the Kane County Cougars play.
Neither the Cubs nor the Cougars have officially confirmed the plan. But even the idea of it stirs thoughts again of affiliated baseball in Joliet.
Doing so would be a challenge.
Joliet and all of Will County is in what baseball calls “protected territory” guarded by both the Cubs and the White Sox.
Kane County happens to be outside of the territory, which has allowed the Kane County Cougars to be affiliated with major league teams for years. The team is part of the Kansas City Royals organization.
“Each club has its own territory defined by counties,” said Steve Densa, a spokesman for Minor League Baseball, the organization of teams affiliated with Major League Baseball.
Joliet is part of the territory controlled by two baseball clubs — the Cubs and the White Sox.
So, not even an affiliated minor league baseball team can move in, he said, “unless the Cubs and White Sox agree to waive their territorial rights.”
Which, however, Densa noted, has happened elsewhere.
The New York Yankees and New York Mets waived territorial rights, and that allowed both of them to bring affiliated teams closer to the home ballpark. Cleveland, too, waived territorial rights when it wanted to bring one of its minor league teams closer to home.
With the Cubs expected to move its team to Kane County, that leaves the White Sox as an option for Joliet.
White Sox spokesman Scott Reifert said he would not speculate on what future likelihood there would be for an affiliated team in Joliet.
The White Sox minor league organization is set up in the Southeastern states.
“We do that for a number of reasons,” Reifert said. “One is the weather. Our teams can start playing in April and usually not have to deal with cold and snow that sometimes plague you when you’re up here.”
The teams also are close enough that scouts and General Manager Kenny Williams can drive a half-hour to 45 minutes from Class A to Class AA and Class AAA, Reifert said. Players, too, don’t have far to go as they move from one level to the other.
Of course, there also would be the matter of getting Cubs’ approval to move a team to Joliet. And, why would they want to help the White Sox?
There’s also the possibility that the Cubs might want to move another minor league affiliate into the Chicago area. But then the White Sox would have to sign off.
And, that gets us back to square one, or at least back to 2002 when city-owned Silver Cross Field opened for the first JackHammers game.
Noted Joliet City Manager Thomas Thanas when asked about the topic this week: “I think everyone’s talked about getting affiliated baseball in Joliet since there was baseball in Joliet.