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Columbus a natural Triple-A fit for Tribe

Columbus a natural Triple-A fit for Tribe

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CLEVELAND -- Chris Antonetti's shoes told the story.

Fresh off a trip to Huntington Park, the future home of the Indians' new Triple-A affiliate, the Tribe's assistant general manager's black shoes were covered with a fresh layer of dirt.

"As you can tell," Antonetti said, "they're not quite done yet."

Antonetti, along with Indians president Paul Dolan, took in the sights Friday at the $55 million ballpark, which is located in the heart of downtown Columbus, Ohio, just across the street from Nationwide Arena. It's still a work in progress, but Antonetti liked what he saw.

"It has everything, from a baseball standpoint, that we could want," Antonetti said.

The same can be said for what brought the two franchises together immediately after the Indians were allowed to negotiate with Columbus or any other available Minor League sites. Soon thereafter, the two parties hammered out the four-year player developmental contract -- the maximum length allowed between a Major League club and a Minor League franchise.

From a logistical standpoint, the move from Buffalo, N.Y., to Columbus, which had been anticipated for months, only made sense, Antonetti said. The Indians now have four of their five Minor League affiliates in the state of Ohio, which will make travel easier on scouts, members of the front office and, of course, the players.

From a business standpoint, though, is where Antonetti and the Indians hope to see the most gains. The potential for future TV relationships with the Indians' official cable network, SportsTime Ohio, will be explored along with a myriad of other potential opportunities that simply seem better in the state capital, Antonetti said.

"Certainly, Buffalo wasn't too far for us, but having our teams within Ohio certainly makes it more convenient," Antonetti said. "As much as anything, it's an opportunity to enhance business relationships in a very important sector of our market in Columbus.

"It's such a natural fit on both the business side and the baseball side."

Antonetti and Indians' brass are also banking on the "Akron effect," so to speak, catching on in Columbus.

The fans in Akron, Ohio, have "connections with players that transition from Akron to Cleveland," Antonetti said. "That further strengthens the size of our fanbase in Columbus.

That's not saying the Indians and Bisons, who are reportedly nearing an agreement to become the Triple-A home of the New York Mets, ended their relationship on bad terms.

"We were thrilled with Buffalo," Antonetti said of the Indians' Triple-A home for 14 years. "It was a great relationship, the facilities were great, the front office treated us exceptionally well and they treated our players exceptionally well.

"But Columbus was just such a natural fit."

Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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