Springfield lands new baseball franchise

Champion City Kings will play at Davidson Stadium.Organizers plan family atmosphere with entertainment similar to Dragons.

The Champion City Kings will become the Prospect League’s newest collegiate summer baseball franchise and play their home games at Carleton Davidson Stadium.

The new franchise completed an agreement with National Trail Parks and Recreation District to use the stadium.

The team hopes to create a minor-league atmosphere with mascots, contests, T-shirt cannons and other entertainment, NTPRD Director Leann Castillo said.

“Everything you see at a Dayton Dragons game, we’ll have it here,” Castillo said. “They’re very family-oriented.”

The Kings will play 30 games at Carleton Davidson next season, which begins in June.

Formal announcement will be made at 11 a.m. today at the stadium, according to a press release.

“We’re proud to call Springfield our home and be a part in strengthening the community with this great American pastime,” owner Ron Heineman said in a press release. “We have been welcomed to Springfield with open arms and couldn’t think of a better location to make our home.”

Heineman also announced Kenton Ridge graduate, ex-Major League pitcher and Wittenberg University assistant Rick White will serve as the team’s manager next season.

Castillo called it “a unique opportunity” for Clark County.

“We have a very strong history of baseball in our community, and I think it’s one more way for people to enjoy that,” Castillo said. “I know so many people enjoy going to the Dayton Dragons, Columbus Clippers and Cincinnati Reds. Why not have an affordable option here in town to take our kids to?”

Castillo said the team will pay the regular stadium rental fee of $350 per game for next season with the intention of reaching a multi-year contract in the future. NTPRD will make approximately $10,500 from the agreement.

NTPRD has been contacted by similar leagues in the past, but the deals haven’t worked out. In August, the league contacted the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and NTPRD for a meeting to talk about the possibilities, and “it just went from there,” Castillo said.

“It was a win-win for everybody,” Castillo said. “It was a pretty quick turnaround.”

With 10 to 12 Kings games at the stadium per month, it will still be available for local teams and tournaments to come to the community. The deal could also increase tourism dollars, Castillo said.

“We’re not shutting anyone out,” Castillo said. “Everyone will have a chance to use the stadium, and it brings in some income.”

Carmela’s Sports Service will serve as the stadium’s exclusive food vendor.

Park officials recently completed two renovation projects at the stadium, including $26,000 for field improvements and $19,000 for painting the entire facility. The money came from NTPRD’s permanent improvement fund.

“We’ve had some issues that have been ongoing for many years,” Castillo said.

The Kings are the Prospect League’s 12th franchise, which includes teams in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and West Virginia. They’ll be the third team in Ohio, including the Chillicothe Paints and the Lorain County Ironmen. Champion City’s closest rival will be the Richmond (Ind.) RiverRats.

The collegiate league was established in 1963 as a venue for players to be evaluated by Major League scouts. In 2008, franchises from the former Frontier League and the Central Illinois Collegiate League merged to form the Prospect League. The league is open to any college players

According to its website, the league has provided professional baseball with 800 players. Of those players approximately 175 have reached the major leagues, including former Minnesota Twin and Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi and former Cincinnati Reds pitchers Jeff Brantley and Norm Charlton.

Last year, 36 players were selected in the MLB Draft.

“We sure hope one of them is out of Springfield next year,” Castillo said.

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