Lake Monsters stay in Burlington

The Vermont Lake Monsters and Oakland Athletics have signed a two-year Player Development Contract for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the two teams announced last week.

The Lake Monsters had been the affiliate of the Washington Nationals and the predecessors of the Nationals, the Montreal Expos, for 17 years before the switch was announced on Sept. 23.

The Lake Monsters will continue to be a short-season, single-A club in the New York-Penn League.

The previous player development contract between the Nationals and Burlington businessman Ray Pecor expired last September leaving the future of Burlington baseball in doubt.

Under the previous contract, the Nationals provided the minor league team and players while Pecor was expected to cover the other expenses and provide a suitable place to play.

The conflict that caused the non-renewal of the contract was the poor condition of the stadium, University of Vermont owned Centennial Field. Major League Baseball claimed that there was significant concern about the substandard and unsafe conditions of the field.

For weeks, reports read that unless the field was renovated, there would be no baseball in Burlington. As news of the contract with the Oakland Athletics emerged renovation of Centennial Field was not mentioned. This begs the question of who is paying for the renovations or whether the renovations occur at all.

In the press release by the Lake Monsters, the Oakland Athletics and the Burlington Free Press, there was not a single mention of renovation.

Not only that, but there was no mention of the field on which the Lake Monsters would be playing.

Despite this confusion, the team that will be playing in Burlington next year appears to be more talented than teams of the past.

The Athletics short-season single-A team had been located in Vancouver, British Columbia since the 2000 season and saw fantastic success in terms of player development.

Baseball America ranked the Athletics with the fifth-best farm system in the major league — Nationals were 28th of 30. In the 11 years in which Vancouver was affiliated with Oakland, 38 former players reached the major league including Rich Harden, Nelson Cruz, Nick Swisher, Mark Teahen, Joe Blanton, Andre Ethier, Kurt Suzuki, Dallas Braden and Andrew Bailey.

Based on this pool of talent, fans of the Lake Monsters can be excited for the product that will be put on the field each night.

The Lake Monsters will begin their 18th New York-Penn League season in June of 2011. Season tickets can be purchased now online at www.vermontlakemonsters.com, by phone at 802-655-4200 or in person at the Lake Monsters front office at the top of the King Street Ferry Dock.