Another year, another player development contract between the Chattanooga Lookouts and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Lookouts and Dodgers have agreed to a four-year extension that will keep Chattanooga as the Class AA affiliate of Los Angeles through the 2014 season. The maximum contract allowed by Major League Baseball will supersede the two-year extension that was signed last November.
"It's a sign that we're happy and they're happy," former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda said. "A city is not about the roads or the buildings. It's the people. You've got good people here and people who love baseball. You've got the bloodline of the country, because here you've got people who love their families, love their churches and love God, so it's a really wonderful place.
"I check with the players and I check with the managers, and they are very happy here."
Lasorda, now a special adviser to Dodgers owner and chairman Frank McCourt, is scheduled to discuss the extension with Lookouts fans at AT&T Field before tonight's series finale against West Tenn.
The Lookouts are in their second season with the Dodgers, and the four-year extension will ensure the second-longest partnership involving the minor league franchise since professional baseball returned to Chattanooga in 1976. The six years overall will surpass the five seasons the Lookouts were affiliated with the Cleveland Indians (1978-82) and the Seattle Mariners (1983-87).
It will take several more extensions to top the 21 seasons the Lookouts shared with the Cincinnati Reds, starting in 1988.
"I'm not surprised, but I'm very happy that the Dodgers like it here," Lookouts owner Frank Burke said. "I told them two years ago that they would love Chattanooga. It's in the middle of the Southern League, and our facility is as good as any in the league. It may not be as fancy, but it's just as good."
Burke and the Lookouts first agreed to become Dodgers affiliates in September 2008.
The Dodgers have won 21 pennants, the most of any National League team, and have reached the NL Championship Series the past two seasons. Rick Honeycutt, who starred at Lakeview High School and the University of Tennessee, is in his fifth season as Dodgers pitching coach.
Before the 2009 season, AT&T Field underwent a transformation that included the construction of a weightroom, erecting "Dodgertown, Tennessee" front gates and installing five video cameras - two on each side of the infield and one in straightaway center. The Lookouts clubhouse was painted blue, and historic Dodgers pictures were put up throughout.
When last season began, replica Dodgers uniforms quickly became favorites of the players.
"It's been tremendous," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said during his visit earlier this summer. "Frank might be as good a partner for a major league club as anybody I've been around. He cares a lot about the fans. He cares a lot about the players, and he cares a lot about the presentation every day, and that's important. He sees all aspects of it, and I greatly appreciate that and everything he's done for us.
"I have no reason to believe that we won't be here for a long time."
Burke signed a four-year extension with Cincinnati in 2002 that covered the 2003-06 seasons before signing a two-year deal with the Reds for '07-08 and then opting for another organization. What does he plan to do now that his Lookouts are booked through 2014?
"I'm just going to get old," Burke said.