The Alexandria Mariners have a new name, a new drain, a new phone number, new lumber and, most of all, new revenue.
THE NAME: The second-year Class A team picked up a major league affiliation when the Seattle Mariners of the American League elected to incorporate Alexandria last fall, changing the name of the team from "Dukes."
An American League provision for Seattle when the team joined two years ago as an expansion outfit was that the Mariners take on a Class A affiliate this season.
Seattle had the Midwest and Florida State, as well as the Carolina League, from which to choose. But since Toronto - Seattle's sister expansion club - already had picked up the Carolina League's Kinston club, Seattle went with Alexandria. That made it unanimous for major league affiliation in the six-team league.
"I think it's going to be a real good league with not one weak sister," said Alexandria Mariner General Manager Rick Holt. "With Philadelphia, the New York Mets, Toronto, Boston, Pittsburgh and Seattle shipping players to the Carolina League, there will be some real quality athletes."
THE LUMBER: Seattle originally was required by the American League to bring in a Class AA team this year. However, both the Blue Jays and Mariners begged off and were allowed to sponsor "long-season" (14 games) A squads.
"That means that whoever Seattle doesn't ship to their AAA team (the highest-rated minor-league class) will come here instead of going to AA," said Holt. "We'll end up getting players who are AA material.
"In addition, as long as Seattle struggles (the team has finished sixth and seventh in the AL West in its two years) we'll be getting players who went high in the high-school draft. We feel like we're going to have a great team."
REVENUE: Seattle pays all salaries for players, a trainer, the manager and coach. Uniforms, insurance, medical expenses and most equipment are supplied by Seattle; Alexandria shares with Seattle travel expenses and handles its own park expenses, advertising, etc.
Since the Carolina League player minimum salary is only $600 per month, no Mariner expects to get rich. But with the American League club helping with road expenses, the Class A ballplayers figure to be more comfortable on road trips.
THE NUMBER: Budgetary considerations prompted the Mariners to change their telephone number from an extra-cost 466-3786 (spelling "HOME RUN") to a cheaper 838-9397 (spelling "UFOXDWP").
THE DRAIN: Last year, Alexandria would throw in its hand and declare the day's game rained out if two drops fell that morning," said Holt. "The management knew that puddles of water would stand interminably on the field.
"A new drainage system was put in after last season. It should dry out the field better."
Although Alexandria led the Carolina League last season in home attendance (45,000), the club saw 18 games lost to wet weather. The games eventually were made up as part of doubleheaders; however, that still erased 18 gates. The Carolina League plays 140 games in 141 days, so single games cannot be played as makeups.
The Mariners are scheduling promo games and such other special events as souvenir giveaways to try to raise attendance this season to 100,000. New signs with paid advertisments decorate the outfield fences of Four Mile Run Park.
"The grandest plan of all is to have a good ball club," said Holt. "Whenever you have a winner, you'll get the fans."