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Yankees will add new rookie-ball affiliate in Appalachian League for 2015 season


Just last year the Yankees debuted their second rookie ball-affiliated team and now, presumably starting in 2015, they will be adding a third. The Yankees organization has signed on with Pulaski County to field another rookie-level team in the Appalachian League and will replace the Mariners after they pulled out of their previous agreement.

As a member of the Appalachian League, the "Pulaski Yankees" would serve as an Advanced-Rookie League, like there is a High-A Tampa and Low-A Charleston in the A-ball. The major difference between this level and a regular rookie ball-level is that these teams don't play their games at the team's complex. They would have their own stadium, fans would be allowed in, and concessions would be sold. They'd be playing out in the world, exposed to fan reactions and in-game pressures like they won't see in the GCL. It will be like any other competitive baseball league.

The Appalachian League is also considered to be a mixed league with most teams operating on a rookie ball-level, but some considered to be Short Season-level. The "Pulaski Yankees" would be a half-level up from the GCL and could seemingly act as companion to the Short Season-A Staten Island Yankees. Many college prospects go to Staten Island straight out of the draft, while high school prospects, at least the ones considered to be "advanced," could go to Pulaski. This would leave the GCL affiliates to deal with the influx of talent coming out of the DSL and even the more advanced international signings, with low-draft high school prospects and un-drafted free agents coming in as well.

This new team will play their home games at historic Calfee Park in Pulaski, Virginia. The stadium was built back in 1935, rests in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has previously been affiliated with the Phillies, Cubs, Braves, Rangers, and Blue Jays before the Mariners came into town back in 2008. In preparation for the Yankees taking over, Calfee Park will undergo a series of renovations that will cost $3-3.5 million:

Calfee Park will get a $2 million facelift that will include adding new seating, upgrading parking and concession areas, and replacing clubhouses and the press box. The old shelter above the third-baseline seating, which dates to the park's 1935 construction and is designated as the family section, is to remain. The overall feel of the park should remain small-town and downhome, Hagan said last week.

Another $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.

The Yankees plan to not only make the park better for fans to come in and see them, but they will also make the baseball facilities more fitting for a team of players that will be striking out on their own for the first time in their lives. While they may be away from Yankee home base, they'll still have all the amenities available to them.

This is all certainly exciting for the Yankees organization, but keep in mind that this is far from a done deal. Remember, the Yankees were going to move their High-A Tampa team to Ocala, Florida until they didn't, though starting up a new team seems much different than moving something that already exists. With the Yankees adding so many international players recently, many started to wonder if they could be setting themselves up for a third GCL team. Now it appears those people were at least partially right.