Minor changes for minor teams
By JOHN ROMANO
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 5, 1999
ST. PETERSBURG -- The minor-league system that began with a Gulf Coast Rookie League team at Al Lang in the summer of 1996 reaches full strength this season.
For the first time, the Rays will field teams at all levels of the minor-league chain, from rookie league to Triple A.
The Orlando Rays are the first Double-A affiliate in the Tampa Bay system. Though Rays ownership has controlled the franchise for nearly two years, Orlando had a working agreement with the Mariners in 1998.
The only other change to the Rays farm system was the dropping of the Gulf Coast League rookie team for cost-cutting reasons. Players who normally go to the GCL will be sent to Princeton or Hudson Valley.
Spring training for the minor-leaguers is held at the Devil Rays Training Complex in St. Petersburg, with the major-leaguers at Al Lang.
The minor-leaguers have exhibition games from mid-March to early April. Games are played at the training complex and are open to the public at no charge. Players who do not make the full-season teams will remain in St. Petersburg for extended spring training and then join a short-season team (Princeton and Hudson Valley) in the summer.