By Josh Vitale, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Ripken Baseball is in the process of selling its ownership interest in the Charlotte Stone Crabs, according to spokesperson John Maroon.
Charlotte County officials have been involved in conversations with the potential new ownership group and the Tampa Bay Rays — the parent club of the High-A minor league team — for six weeks to two months and confirmed the potential sale on Monday.
If approved by Major League Baseball, the agreed upon deal states that the new ownership group will assume the current contracts held between the county, Rays and Ripken Baseball with no changes.
Those contracts include the Stone Crabs’ player development deal with the Rays — they are in the second year of a two-year contract, the fourth such deal both sides have operated under since 2009 — and their deal with Charlotte County to play the 2016 season at Charlotte Sports Park — a contract which is renewed on a year-to-year basis.
“Both the Rays and I came away with the sense that they (the new ownership group) are strongly committed to Charlotte County and their own game plan to build the team and support the community. We’re extremely excited about this new opportunity,” Charlotte County Administrator Ray Sandrock said in a statement.
“Charlotte County has a firm agreement with all parties that the Stone Crabs will be affiliated with the Rays and play at Charlotte Sports Park. The Stone Crabs are very important to the Rays and they want to see the team continue to play at the Sports Park long term.”
The Rays, who have used Charlotte Sports Park as their home for spring training, instructional league, the High-A Stone Crabs and the rookie-league Gulf Coast League Rays since 2009, are in the seventh year of a 20-year contract with Charlotte County.
Ripken Baseball, which Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. is the president and CEO of, has owned the Stone Crabs since they moved from Vero Beach to Charlotte County following the 2008 season.
“Based on instructions from our investors we are in discussions to sell our interest in the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs,” Maroon said in a statement. “This process takes some time and out of respect for the process we cannot reveal details of these discussions.
“We have very much enjoyed our time in Port Charlotte and are grateful for the community’s support over the years. We are committed to working with a group that has baseball ownership experience and expertise that will continue to provide first class family entertainment to our fans.”
According to a report by The Pawtucket Times, the potential new ownership is led by Lou Schwechheimer, the longtime vice president, general manager and part owner of the Pawtucket Red Sox, who stepped down after 37 years in September after the Triple-A team was sold to members of the Boston Red Sox’ ownership group in February.
Schwechheimer and the Rays could not be reached for comment prior to publication.
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