Pro baseball in Bakersfield: A look back and a look ahead

Future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez pitches to future Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza in this file photo from the Eyewitness News archives.

After 75 years, numerous team names and affiliations, Bakersfield's Minor League Baseball team has left town.

Stymied by a stadium facing the wrong direction and poor attendance in recent years, the Blaze opted to leave the California League.

The ballpark is owned by the Kern County Parks Department. Director Bob LeRude said Tuesday the park won't be empty for long. The county has already fielded interest from several organizations.

The most likely suitor is the Pecos League, an independent professional league with teams spread across the Southwest. League officials have already flown out to look at the stadium and begin negotiating a lease agreement with county officials.

"About 80 percent of their players are from California," LeRude said. "They'd love to get a team in California."

Teams in the Pecos League are not affiliated with Major League Baseball. Standouts in the Pecos are hoping for contracts with Single-A affiliates, like the former Blaze.

For decades, Sam Lynn Ballpark played host to baseball greats -- before they were great. Many of them were captured by Eyewitness News cameras.

Play the story video to see archive footage of Mike Piazza, Pedro Martinez and Eric Karros, as well as video from the 1989 California League Championship, the last major title won by the Bakersfield Dodgers.

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