The New Haven Ravens welcomed their new mother birds to town on Friday: the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Ravens held an inaugural Fall Baseball Luncheon at the Omni-New Haven Hotel to celebrate the new farm system affiliation between the Ravens and the Blue Jays. The Ravens, associated with the St. Louis Cardinals for the past two seasons, join the Blue Jays’ farm system for the 2003 season.
Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi was the featured speaker. New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and West Haven Mayor Richard Borer were among the 150 people who attended the event.
Ravens General Manager Adam Schierholz ’87 spoke first about the relationship between the two ballclubs.
“The Blue Jays are a first-class organization,” Schierholz said. “And with their help, our prospects look good for a fifth straight postseason appearance.”
The Ravens compete in the Class AA Eastern League.
Schierholz stressed the need to continue building momentum in the community — including on the Yale campus.
He thanked Yale for helping to renovate Yale Field. The University recently installed 28 yards of new clay in the infield and is planning to rebuilding the batting cages. Yale shares the ballpark with the Ravens club.
“Yale Field is a gem,” Schierholz said. “It has an ambiance, mystique and aura all its own, having hosted such names as [Babe] Ruth, [Whitey] Ford, [former U.S. President George] Bush, [Derek] Jeter and Coco Crisp.”
Ricciardi also spoke about the historic ballpark.
“It’s almost a ‘Field of Dreams’ setting,” Ricciardi said. “You can feel all the nostalgia there.”
During his brief speech, Ricciardi talked about the advantage of locating all of Toronto’s minor league affiliates closer to toronto . The Blue Jay’s AAA affiliate, the SkyChiefs, play in Syracuse, N.Y. A Class A team, the Doubledays, play in Auburn, N.Y. The proximity makes it easier for organizational scouts to track top prospects.
“From a talent standpoint, all our best players will be [playing in New Haven],” Ricciardi said.
Most minor league affiliations expire every two years. The Cardinals did not renew their player-development contracts with the Ravens this August. The Blue Jays had been affiliated with the Knoxville Smokies in Knoxville, Tenn., since 1980. But after the Smokies negotiated an agreement with the Cardinals, the Blue Jays signed a two-year deal with the Ravens.
Ricciardi said he was excited about establishing another successful long-term relationship with the Ravens.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Ravens unveiled “Strikeouts for a Healthier Connecticut.” Through the program, Sikorsky Aircraft will donate $5 to Community Health Charities for each strikeout by a Ravens pitcher this coming summer. In 2002, New Haven pitchers combined for 913 strikeouts.
This season, the Ravens also were involved in community youth programming in the greater New Haven area. Activities included Rally Around Reading, which promotes reading with area youth. The Ravens’ mascot is Rally the Raven.
“We have good kids, they give back to the community, and they do the fundamental things,” Ricciardi said. “We expect great things from them next season.”