Joining the four-team circuit in 1997 will be the Kona Man O War and the Kaneohe Bay Dawgs.
The Kona Man O War, the second Big Island team, is scheduled to play its games at the Old Kona Airport Field. The KaneoheBay Dawgs, the third Oahu franchise, are tentatively scheduled to play at the Kaneohe Marine Corps Base-Hawaii's enclosed baseball field, the first time the league will play on a military installation.
Expansion was deemed necessary, according to league president Frank Kudo, because of the increased interest from Major League Baseball and the Japanese and Korean pro leagues to send players to the Hawaii developmental league. This year's rosters will increase from 24 to 26 spots, adding two pitchers to each team, but the 104 slots are still not enough to meet the demand.
Major league baseball alone wants to send 90 players from its Class A and AA teams. Twenty-six Hawaii Winter Baseball alumni are currently playing, or have played, on major league teams this season.
"We at major league baseball feel that the Hawaii Winter Baseball league, with its fans and environment, is a winning combination," Roy Krasik, MLB manager of baseball operations, said during today's press conference. "What better association is there than the alluring tranquility of Hawaii, combined with the mystical beauty of baseball."
Krasik was representing the Office of the Commissioner in signing a three-year deal between Major League Baseball and Hawaii Winter Baseball.
League play opens Oct. 11 with the Hilo Stars against the West Oahu CaneFires at Hans L'Orange in Waipahu. The Maui Stingrays host the Honolulu Sharks at Wailuku's War Memorial Stadium and Hilo will again use Wong and Vulcan stadiums for home games and the Honolulu Sharks will again be at home at Rainbow Stadium.
Each team will play a 54-game schedule. A mid-season All-Star Game is set for Nov. 29 at War Memorial Stadium. The championship game is scheduled for Dec. 13 in Hilo.
The three-game series between Honolulu and Hilo on Nov. 1-3 will be played in Kona at 3 p.m.