BY DEAN RUSSIN
The Tigers will have to stay in Oneonta for at least a few more days, whether they want to or not.
New York-Penn League President Ben Hayes postponed a media conference scheduled for 1 p.m. today that was intended to announce the move of a minor league baseball franchise to Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Conn.
Hayes sent a memo to the Norwich City Manager's Office on Thursday afternoon stating the announcement "must unfortunately be rescheduled due to unforeseen circumstances that have affected the New York-Penn League President's ability to be available for the press conference."
It is unclear why Hayes refers to himself in the third person in his memo, which also states the conference will take place at 1 p.m. Jan. 28 at Norwich City Hall.
City Manager's Office Executive Secretary Jill Brennan re-distributed the memo via e-mail to a list of more than 120 recipients. E-mail addresses for O-Tigers owner E. Miles Prentice III, general manager Andrew Weber and assistant GM Eric Knighton were not among those listed and none appeared to be affiliated with the O-Tigers.
The Daily Star contacted Brennan at her office more than an hour before receiving the memo, which arrived around 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
"The league president couldn't get a flight out of wherever he is," said Brennan, who added that city manager Alan Bergren was not in his office at the time of the announcement.
The Daily Star left messages at the offices of Bergren and Hayes, as well as another on the cell phone of Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom before Brennan re-distributed the memo Thursday afternoon. None called back.
Hayes placed a league-wide gag order on the move earlier this month. As a result, Weber has refused to comment on whether the O-Tigers are headed to Dodd Stadium or if they will honor their lease with Oneonta to use the 4,000-seat Damaschke Field through the end of the 2010 season.
A group headed by Prentice, which includes Weber's father, Jim Weber, purchased the Oneonta Athletic Corp. from longtime owners Sam Nader and Sid Levine in December of 2008. Nader reiterated Wednesday that the 2008 deal dictated the franchise, which has been affilated with the NY-Penn since 1966, would remain in Oneonta through the 2010 season.
The O-Tigers, who are part of the OAC, finished last among the 14 NY-Penn teams in 2009 attendance. Prentice's group cut free nights sponsored by local businesses, raised season-ticket prices and failed to apply for a beer license under Andrew Weber's direction last summer. The Tigers had 34 home dates last season and drew 23,521 fans _ a drop of 16,088 from 2008.
All but one home game was played at Damaschke Field. The Tigers also played their annual Hall of Fame Weekend NY-Penn game against the Tri-City ValleyCats at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. That game alone, which was free to the public, drew more than 10 percent of the Tigers' 2009 attendance as 2,414 fans showed up for the Tigers' 7-4 victory.
The Batavia Muckdogs drew 35,620 fans _ second-to-last in the NY-Penn _ to their 2,200-seat Dwyer Stadium in 2009.
Bergren said Wednesday that Norwich approved a contract Tuesday to lease the 6,000-seat Dodd Stadium to a NY-Penn team. Dodd Stadium became vacant when the Double-A Connecticut Defenders left for Richmond, Va., following the 2009 season.
Dean Russin can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.