Future fans line up at the Quakes’ 2007 youth clinic. The Quakes won’t hold a youth clinic or Hot Stove banquet in 2010.
For the first time since their Angels affiliation began in 2001, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes are not holding a Hot Stove banquet this winter. Nor will they hold a youth clinic.
A Hot Stove banquet is a tradition in most minor league towns. The phrase refers to old days when fans might sit around a “hot stove” during the winter to stay warm and talk about baseball. Today we might call it “Hot Space Heater,” but it just doesn’t have the same charm. In any case, the Hot Stove banquet is an opportunity for minor league teams to get their fans thinking about baseball again as the season approaches.
The parent club often provides a speaker. This year, Angels manager Mike Scioscia went to Orem, second baseman Howie Kendrick went to Cedar Rapids, and farm director Abe Flores went to Arkansas.
The Triple-A Salt Lake Bees, owned by the NBA’s Utah Jazz, have never done a winter event to my memory, but the Quakes have always had a dinner. Among the speakers have been Scioscia and former pitcher Jim Abbott.
The Quakes were sold a year ago to Brett Sports & Entertainment. After the season, most of the prior owner’s staff were let go or left. Heavy turnover is not unusual for many minor league teams, but it is for the Quakes, one of the steadier operations in the California League.
In recent years, the Quakes have also held a youth clinic on a Saturday in January. This typically involved Angels minor league players, coaches, and former Angels pitcher Clyde Wright.
I asked Mike Lindskog, the new broadcaster and Public Relations Manager, for a statement I can release about why the Quakes would have no banquet or clinic this year. Mike’s response:
“With the recent ownership change, we decided that our efforts would be best spent focusing on reaching out to our season ticket holders and corporate partners, starting to build relationships in the community and planning to enhance the experience of Quakes fans when visiting the Epicenter in 2010. Kids Clinics during the season are currently being planned and we hope to have some details finalized very soon.”
In the current recessionary economy, I can understand why they wouldn’t host the clinic, because it’s free and just P.R., although it was certainly an opportunity to sell souvenirs and hawk season tickets.
The Hot Stove banquet, though, was always well-attended. Many corporate sponsors bought entire tables, and the core fans turned out to reconnect and begin plans for supporting the team in the upcoming season. The Quakes gave awards to local high school athletes, and recognized a “fan of the year” for service to the organization.
Organizing a Hot Stove requires a lot of work, but it’s one of those annual events that are considered a benchmark of an organization’s stability. It was an opportunity for the new ownership to show its core fans that they care. I’m sure they do, but I suspect a lot of those fans are wondering if the new management has its act together. Core fans often judge success by continuity, and when that continuity is broken, questions inevitably arise.