PITTSBURG -- The city is ready to play ball as the home of an independent minor league baseball team, according to a proposal that will come before the City Council next week.
City Council members will be asked to approve a resolution on Monday that calls for making $350,000 in improvements to a baseball field at City Park in anticipation of the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs' proposal to add a Pittsburg team to its Bay Area roster, which includes teams in Sonoma, San Rafael and Vallejo.
"It's a little bit of serendipity. It's the right place and the right time," said Lafayette resident and former Major League pitcher Wayne Franklin, who along with his wife, Cris, and business partner Tom Macari make up the Backwards K Group, the team's owners. (a backward K is a symbol used in scorekeeping to show when the batter does not swing at a pitch that the umpire calls as strike three.)
"(Pittsburg) was ready to do something. We happened to be crossing their path at the right time," said Franklin, whose Major League career included a stint with the San Francisco Giants in 2004 before playing his last year in the majors with the Atlanta Braves in 2006.
The team's name is the Pittsburg Mettle. Franklin says the name pays homage to both the city's being an industrial town and its ambitious future as seen in the way the downtown has been rebuilt.
"It kind of defines the direction that Pittsburg is going right now," he said.
No general funds are involved with the resolution that calls for making the improvements and approving a licensing agreement with the Backwards K Group. The $350,000 in funds that would be used to bring one of City Park's seven ball fields up to league standards would come from a reserve account of the Pittsburg Power Co., a city-owned entity that uses revenues from energy projects it develops to promote economic development in the city. The annual maintenance of $15,000 would be paid through the city's Economic Development Fund, which was originally Pittsburg Power Co. funds.
The Pacific Association, which plays at the level of A and AA baseball, is an outgrowth of the North American Baseball League that ceased operations in November 2012.
Pittsburg is a great fit for having a minor league baseball team, said Cris Franklin.
"In the East Bay, it's sort of hard to find baseball fields," she said. "(City Park) does accommodate baseball. That was one of the great things about it," she said.
There is also free parking and access to state Highway 4.
"It's a great setting and we think that Pittsburg is a baseball city," she said.
Pittsburg also shares similarities with some of the successful East Coast city teams that are part of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball Clubs, she added.
"The Atlantic League is what the Pacific Association hopes to be. It's huge and they have unbelievable stadiums," she said.
This will not be the first time that Pittsburg has been home to a minor league baseball team. Between 1948 and 1951, the Diamonds played here, according to a staff report that recommends City Council members approve the resolution as a way to improve an existing infrastructure and the quality of life for residents.
The proposed improvements to be made at Field 1 at City Park include fencing, seating replacement and additional bleachers, safety netting, grass infield improvements, installation of a pitcher's mound and scoreboard, and improvements to the dugout and sound systems, among other changes. Field 1 is the only full-sized baseball field in the park.
If all goes according to plan, the team could be playing its first home game at City Park on June 17, the report said. Ticket prices are expected to range from $5 to $10.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.
IF YOU GO
What: Pittsburg City Council to consider a resolution to bring minor league baseball to the city
When: 7 p.m Monday
Where: City Council chamber, 65 Civic Ave., Pittsburg