After an offseason filled with threats and little progress on a much-desired new stadium, the Boise Hawks season started with the very real possibility that it could be the clubs final year as a Chicago Cubs affiliate and the much more remote chance that the Hawks themselves could move elsewhere.
It will end Sunday win or lose in the final game of the best-of-3 Northwest League Championship Series against Vancouver with much more optimism.
You can credit an improved team, one that went from dismal (13-25 in the first half) to the leagues best (24-14 in the second half) and has shown incredible resiliency in fighting back in the playoffs. It was on display again Saturday night before an excited crowd of 1,857, which cheered as the Hawks twice rallied from one-run deficits to tie the game and then win in the bottom of the ninth.
But you can also credit an improved off-field situation. While there has been little movement on the stadium front, there has also been little discussion of the matter. No one is publicly demanding a new park. No one is making threats about the future of the team.
Its been about baseball for a while now.
Cubs and Hawks officials will talk Monday to either finalize a new two-year agreement or end their 12-year relationship as parent organization and short-season Class A affiliate. The Hawks, which are guaranteed an affiliation with a major-league club, are encouraged by recent talks with the Cubs.
Neither side is making proclamations or declarations. Each has a list of wants, including the stadium issue that simply isnt going away. But each has good reason to renew their agreement.
I really feel like were close enough that we can get it done, Hawks President and General Manager Todd Rahr said Saturday night. If they give us a two-year deal, its a show of confidence in the city of Boise, the Boise Hawks and us getting something done.
Chicago officials have visited Memorial Stadium twice in the last few weeks, including an appearance by Chairman Tom Ricketts and President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein for the first game of the Northwest League playoffs.
It feels promising that a deal is in the works even after all that offseason bluster.
And remaining with the Cubs, one of baseballs most popular franchises, is in the best interest of the Hawks. Maybe its just the intoxicating optimism of winning baseball, but Chicago finally feels like its going to build an organization through its farm system.
First-round picks Albert Almora and Pierce Johnson have spent part of the year in Boise. South African Tayler Scott, who will start Game 3, was a fifth-round pick in 2011. Slugger Dan Vogelbach (10 home runs) was a second-rounder in 2011 and Stephen Bruno (.361 average) was a seventh-rounder in 2012.
Epstein, who built two World Series champions with the Boston Red Sox and is now tasked with ending another curse in Chicago, overhauled the Cubs minor-league staff late in the season.
No one expects fans to rush out to Memorial Stadium to see prospects, still years away from the majors. But if those big-name picks produce winning baseball, as has been the case in the second half this season, then maybe the fans will get behind baseball especially in the playoffs, especially on picturesque nights like Saturday.
Come Monday, it will again be time to discuss the business of baseball.
But on Sunday, for one more time this year, well get pure baseball. One more day of optimism. One chance to win a title. One game to decide it all.
© 2012 Idaho StatesmanBrian Murphy: 377-6444Twitter: @MurphsTurph