Fire Frogs batting practice

The Florida Fire Frogs take batting practice before a recent game. There's a chance this sight won't be seen again after Aug. 25.

Osceola County is amicably trying to end what was originally signed as a long-term agreement with the Florida Fire Frogs for the Atlanta Braves minor-league team to play at Osceola County Stadium.

Commissioners approved a measure Monday that would pay the team’s owners $500,000 for the Fire Frogs to leave the stadium at the end of this season, which began last week and ends Aug. 25. It would truncate what was originally signed in 2017 as a three-year deal and then a series of 23 one-year agreements the team could exercise on an annual basis.

The optimal question in this matter is …

Why?

Following Monday’s County Commission meeting where the board approved the measure, county officials said that the original agreement between them and the club, signed early in 2017, was one that neither side could agree to, likening the agreement, and this attempt at resolution, to a marriage that just didn’t work out and a natural way to bring the contract to a conclusion.

“While we’re pleased that the Fire Frogs will finish out the 2019 season at Osceola Heritage Park, we have ended our contractual relationship with the team and entered into an agreement that provides a settlement of $500,000, “ County Manager Don Fisher said. “Baseball is a uniquely cherished American sport, and we look forward to a final exciting season in Kissimmee.”

How’s the team feel?

Erik Anderson was the team’s Chief Operations Officer until a month or two before the season. He offered to part ways with the club mostly due to the friction that ensued between it and the county, which he once worked for; Anderson was the baseball facility coordinator before going to work for the team. He essentially went from being the landlord to being the tenant at the end of the 2017 baseball season.

He said, while officially separating from the team around Opening Day last week, he has received authorization to speak for the Tennessee-based ownership group.

“The community wants to know why this is happening,” he said. “There’s no question there were bargains not lived up to. The county now acknowledges they breached the original deal, and that it’s for financial reasons. And they acknowledge there is another deal in the works.

“The team and county have not held their end of the bargains, promises weren’t kept … so rent checks were kept.”

According to documents within Monday’s measure, the county will save $173,000 a year with the team departing Osceola County Stadium and be able to generate an additional $300,000 a year from “alternate use of the Stadium.”

Orlando City Soccer Club reached a deal with Osceola County in November to move its training facility to the former Houston Astros’ minor-league offices and back fields on the stadium property. The soccer team has released little to no other details about it since, and there has been no official connection between that agreement and the Fire Frogs.

Over the winter, Osceola County completely overhauled the drainage system in the stadium and re-sodded the baseball stadium field.

“They spent over a half-million on the field, and now they want to run off the team that plays on it,” Anderson said.

Will the team take the deal?

Anderson said he was told the team’s decision makers had received the deal and were reviewing it.

“In the end, the club has no need to harm the county,” he said.

Monday’s measure included a clause that the county could obtain a court order to declare the 2017 Agreement terminated if the team does not accept the provisions.

“The Board authorized that, should the county and team not come to an agreement, we can seek an opinion from the court as to what’s contained in the agreement,” County Attorney Andrew Mai said.