The Alexandria Dukes signed a three-year working agreement for affiliation with the defending world champion Pittsburgh Pirates today.
The announcement was made by Gene Thomas, team owner, Rick Holt, general manager, and Murray Cook, the director of player personnel and minor league operations for the Pirates.
Three other teams were interested in an affiliation with Alexandria: the Baltimore Orioles, the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners. However, Alexandria opted for the Pirates' three-year offer.
Pittsburgh entered into the runnng three weeks ago, according to Cook, and a deal was finalized about a week ago. Salem had been Pittsburgh's class A affiliation since 1968.
"We've had good relations with Salem over the past 20 years, seven in the rookie league and 13 in the Carolina League," Cook said. "But the new organization there had different ideas about player development than we did. Also, we wanted this opportunity to play in a major metropolitan area. The possibility of a new stadium was no small factor either."
A new stadium is still conjecture.
"This is one of the finest agreements any minor league club has ever had," said Thomas. "Seattle and Baltimore were very kind to us, but we feel we are getting into one of the best organizations in baseball. the Pittsburgh organization is just as fine as the one that Mr. (George) Steinbrenner runs in New York. "According to Thomas, "if the people of Alexandria want the team to remain as the Dukes, that name will stay. Pittsburgh has no objection to the team name".
No manager has been selected for next year.Mike Toomey, manager last season, is a candidate, but probably only if Pittsburgh makes a managerial change in their.
"Gene and I have discussed the decision about Mike (Toomey)," said Cook.
"He is very competent and will be given every consideration if we make any changes." John Lipon managed Salem this past season and seems the likely choice for next year.
Thomas hopes Toomey will catch on elsewhere if no changes are made.
"Mike did just a tremendous job for us, as did (player-coach) Elwood Holland," said Thomas. "Two or three teams have talked to me about Mike and I'm interested and concerned about his future. He's an excellent baseball man and I'm sure somewhere down the line he will be picked up."