Augusta has been connected with San Francisco for eight seasons of minor league baseball thanks to a player development contract between the Giants and the GreenJackets.
Extending that agreement with team owner Ripken Baseball for another two seasons seems likely, according to Giants Vice President of Baseball Operations Bobby Evans, but a renewal won’t come without another stern reminder that facilities need to improve at the aging Lake Olmstead Stadium.
“They’ve approached us about coming back, and I think that we just want to be clear about what the future is relative to facilities,” Evans said. “We love being a part of the South Atlantic League and we really like Augusta, but you want to have your players develop in an environment that works for them on a development side.”
Daily thunderstorms caused havoc during the GreenJackets’ last homestand.
While rainouts are considered part of the game, the team’s two batting cages are located outdoors and exposed to the weather. Not only did the Giants’ prospects miss out on playing time, they didn’t even get to practice on days when afternoon rain fell.
“The reality is the facilities are probably the biggest downside for us right now,” Evans said. “We have a cage that’s covered, which I applaud ownership for doing that, but when you lose development days due to rain you need to have facilities that can accommodate the work you need to get in. We obviously had to leave the cage as soon as it started raining.”
The GreenJackets have added a weight room in recent years but its located apart from the team’s clubhouse and training facility, which is also disconnected from the outdoor batting cages.
“To pull your club into three different locations for development, it’s really not ideal,” Evans said. “I think ultimately we’d like to resolve those problems. Those are certainly the pressure points we’ve put on the Ripken people to address.”
TOP TEAM: A doubleheader sweep at Hagerstown over the weekend temporary put the GreenJackets in sole possession of first place in the South Atlantic League Southern Division.
Though six weeks remain in the regular season schedule, the GreenJackets know they have plenty of work to do to keep their position.
“We want to make a run at this thing in the second half and go to the playoffs,” outfielder Brett Krill said. “We’ve been doing well, but we’ve still got a long way to go to get to where we want to go.”
Where the team wants to go this season is Asheville, where the first-half Southern Division champions await a second-half winner for the first round of the playoffs.
Manager Lipso Nava said reaching the playoffs is the team’s goal but talking about it isn’t.
“I think it is too early to look at,” Nava said last week before his team left for an eight-game road trip. “I think this next series on the road will probably dictate our fate later on, but I think it’s a little too early to look at all that. I just want the guys to keep focused on the long run. August is a tough month here, especially with the weather.”
ROAD WARRIORS: The will have to get used to winning on the road if it wants to keep playing past the regular season.
The last 34 games on the schedule include 27 away from home.
While the team does hit better on the road, the pitching is another story. Augusta’s arms are 28-23 at home this season but just 18-25 on the road.
Krill said he and his teammates shouldn’t be intimidated by playing on the road after all the trips they’ve already made this season.
“The only place we’re going to that we haven’t been to yet is Delmarva,” he said. “So we’re familiar with all of the fields. We look forward to the challenge. There’s going to be other teams fighting for that second playoff spot, and we want it. We’re definitely up to the challenge, and we’re going to go after it.”
The GreenJackets will wrap up their current road trip at Lexington on Thursday and return home Friday for a three-game series with Hickory.