New stadium name, new manager, 16 new players
The Hudson Valley Renegades, the minor league professional baseball team that plays on Route 9D just north of Beacon, opens its 2023 season tonight (April 7), hosting the Greensboro Grasshoppers from North Carolina and kicking off a schedule that will feature a number of twists.
Dutchess Stadium, the Renegades’ home in Wappingers Falls since their first season in 1994, is no more. In March, the team sold naming rights for the first time and the stadium is now Heritage Financial Park, although “The Dutch” may prevail with die-hard fans.
The Renegades, which are the High-A affiliate of the New York Yankees (two steps below the major leagues; players advance to Double A and then Triple A), will be guided by a new manager, Sergio Santos, who joined the Yankees system last year and spent six years as a relief pitcher with four major league teams.
Santos said players at the High-A level have the necessary skills but need to develop consistency. “That’s what we look to work on, building on the talent they have,” he said. He added that fans can expect the Renegades, like the Yankees, to “take pride in stealing bases, going from first to third, scoring from second on a base hit. I take pride in the little things; that’s what helps you win games.”
The Renegades have a 30-man roster, including 16 newcomers. They include the Yankees’ top two picks in the 2022 draft of high school and college players: outfielder Spencer Jones (the 25th, from Vanderbilt) and pitcher Drew Thorpe (the 61st, from Cal Poly). They rank fifth and eighth, respectively, among Yankee prospects. Pitchers Zach Messinger and Chase Hampton and catcher Antonio Gomez are also considered top prospects.
Jones recalled this week there were 100 people in his house during the July draft when his name was announced. “We went crazy, and when I saw my grandpa crying — that was really special.”
He said he’s excited by the prospect of playing baseball regularly into September. “I show up at the field every day, ready to work,” he said. “That’s something I take a lot of pride in.”
The Renegades will play 132 games in 2023, including 105 against North Division rivals (Greensboro, the Aberdeen Ironbirds, Brooklyn Cyclones, Jersey Shore BlueClaws and Wilmington Blue Rocks) and 27 against South Division teams (the Asheville Tourists, Greenville Drive, Hickory Crawdads, Rome Braves and Winston-Salem Dash).
At the stadium, the 29-year-old outfield wall has been replaced and the “batter’s eye” — a black wall that helps batters see pitches more clearly — was enlarged in center field. The batting cages are also now enclosed.
Major Pay Boost for Minor Leaguers
Baseball salaries more than double
Minor league baseball players will never get rich, but beginning this season they will be better off financially.
As part of an agreement reached on Monday (April 3) with Major League Baseball, players at the High-A level, such as those on the roster for the Hudson Valley Renegades, will earn $27,000 annually, up from $11,000.
At the Double A level, the pay will rise to $30,250 from $13,800, and at Triple AAA, to $35,800 from $17,500.
Minor league players also will be compensated for the first time if they participate in spring training and will receive better housing, meal and transportation benefits.
In addition, minor league players can challenge some disciplinary actions through a neutral arbitrator rather than through the league. Players also won control over the rights to their names, images and likenesses, a benefit they lost in the previous contract with the league.
In addition, a federal judge in California last month approved a $185 million settlement for minor league players who alleged Major League Baseball had violated minimum-wage laws.
Minor league umpires reached an agreement last year to earn $3,000 to $4,500 per month and a per diem of up to $66 per game.
Next year, the Renegades will move to a players’ clubhouse to be constructed beyond left field and visitors will take over the current right-field facility, which the teams have shared in the past. In addition, the pitching bullpens will be moved off the playing fields.
This marks the Renegades’ third season in High-A as a Yankee affiliate; it was formerly at a lower level and associated with the Tampa Bay Rays. Since its inception, 117 players have reached the majors, including two American League rookies of the year (Evan Longoria and Jeremy Hellickson) and an American League most valuable player (Josh Hamilton). In 2005, Scott Podsednik of the Chicago White Sox became the first former Renegade to hit a walk-off, game-winning home run in a World Series.
Twenty-six former Renegade players and coaches were on major league rosters on opening day March 30, including shortstop Anthony Volpe. On April 2, Volpe became the first Yankee in 110 years to steal a base in each of his first three major league games.