BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Baseball had always been a staple in Bakersfield. The first minor league team came to town in the 1940s. A handful of different Major League Baseball teams had minor league affiliates by all different names call Kern County home.
"There were real people there that loved baseball and loved us and they’re just amazing folks that sort of fought with us to try to keep the team there as well," former broadcaster Dan Besbris said.
There were the Badgers, Boosters, Outlaws and Dodgers just to name a few. At the end, it was the Blaze whose torch finally went out.
A combination of poor fan attendance and failure to build a new ballpark ultimately drove minor-league baseball to Daytona, Florida. The Blaze left in 2016, leaving the 661 without minor league baseball for the first time since the 1980s.
"I just wish there was professional baseball now there to fill their needs," former Blaze general manager Mike Candela said. "Something to take their minds off the winter and that's what baseballs there for.”
There was a time when rumors swirled around Sam Lynn Ballpark, all concerning a brand new stadium on the West side of town. Investors got cold feet and pulled funding, leaving the door open for an exit-plan.
MLB announced plans to shrink minor league baseball in volume of teams so that they can pay their players a living wage. This means baseball returning would be quite the stretch. But if the day did come where Bakersfield could host another affiliate, Candela is on board.
"Absolutely and count me in as interested, taking care of some unfinished business," he said.
The only team left in Bakersfield is the Train Robbers who play in the independent Pecos League. This is not affilated with Major League Baseball.