PULASKI — Just a week after the announcement that the Seattle Mariners were pulling their farm team out of Calfee Park, town officials and the ballfield’s new management said Tuesday that Pulaski has a new affiliation with one of, if not the most, prominent franchises in sport: the New York Yankees.
The new team will play in the Appalachian League, just as the Pulaski Mariners did, when the next season begins in June. The name of the team is still under discussion.
The switch in teams is part of near-total overhaul of Pulaski baseball. Earlier this year, David Hagan and Larry Shelor, heads of the Christiansburg-based Shelor Automotive Group, bought the Appalachian League affiliation associated with Calfee Park. Last week, the town council approved the sale of Calfee Park itself to Hagan and Shelor. The council approved the final contract for the sale of the park Tuesday night.
“Pulaski Yankees has a nice ring to it,” Hagan said with a grin Tuesday.
Veteran Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, who attended Tuesday’s news conference with a 2009 World Series ring on his hand, said Yankee greats such as Reggie Jackson will be making stops in Pulaski.
“We’re all a big family,” Cashman said.
The Pulaski affiliate will be a sort of rung between the Yankees’ two Gulf Coast League teams and another team in the Penn League. “This is an important steppingstone in our development program” for players, Cashman said.
The Yankees are deciding whether to shut down one of the Gulf Coast teams, Cashman said.
Hagan said last week that a $3 million to $3.5 million overhaul of Pulaski’s baseball facilities is planned.
Calfee Park will get a
$2 million face-lift that will include adding new seating, upgrading parking and concession areas, and replacing clubhouses and the press box. The old shelter above the third base line seating, which dates to the park’s 1935 construction and is designated as the family section, is to remain.
The park’s name is not changing and its overall feel should remain small-town and down-home, Hagan said last week. The new management hopes to increase attendance from an average of 800 people per game to 1,500, new park manager Blair Hoke said last week.
An additional $1 million to $1.5 million is to be spent building an extended stay facility so ballplayers can live in downtown Pulaski during the season. In recent years, Mariners players stayed in a motel in Wytheville.
Shelor and Hagan’s purchase of the park included a $100,000 sale price, revenue sharing with the town on ticket sales and concessions, and an agreement to pay the town’s workers who have maintained Calfee Park for years for at least a few more years of upkeep.
Appalachian League President Lee Landers, who was also at Tuesday’s announcement, said the Yankees had shown interest in Pulaski for several years and had a right of first refusal should there be an opening for a new farm team there.
Cashman said the Yankees had a farm team in the Appalachian League years ago and look forward to returning next summer.
“Hopefully we’ll provide for you some tremendous memories of Yankee stars of future years,” Cashman said.