This is a story I’ve been following with great interest, because the AAA Richmond Braves are the closest MiLB team to my home. The Atlanta Braves organization has already decided to pull their top affiliate from the city of Richmond, VA, and move it to Gwinnett, a suburb of Atlanta. I’d be the first to admit that Richmond could have done more to keep the team around, but I find it odd that the Braves are basically going to be competing for Atlanta-area entertainment dollars with their own minor-league affiliate.
Regardless, they finally broke ground on a new stadium, and appear to be proceeding with the plan to move:
In 2009, the Braves will move their top affiliate from its longtime home in Richmond, Va., to a new stadium about 36 miles northeast of Turner Field. The Gwinnett park will have a capacity of 10,099, including room for 2,300 on a berm beyond the outfield wall.
[Gwinnett Daily Post]
Hope that works out for them.
But what of Virginia’s capital city, soon to be bereft of baseball? While many people love The Diamond, I have to admit that I have always referred to it as a concrete mausoleum – it doesn’t have a lot of personality, and it’s too big, so it always seems empty. I suppose the city could use it to lure in a team that wanted to move right away, but it doesn’t seem like a long-term solution at all.
The biggest problem, however, is that the city has very little control over the process of luring their next baseball partner. First off, MiLB won’t award them a new franchise until they are dead certain that the Braves’ new nest in Gwinnett is properly feathered. In other words, if Gwinnett has stadium delays, the league could force Atlanta to host yet another lame-duck season – boy, won’t that go over well with the fans!
On top of that, it’s new MiLB prez Pat O’Conner who is reading the applications from teams willing to move, and he who will be deciding who gets the nod.
Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner will field applications from all teams interested in moving to Richmond. O’Conner will determine what team and what classification level best fit Richmond. If no one wants the franchise offered by O’Conner, that’s fine. Life will go on.
It probably will go on without professional baseball in the area, though.
Rejecting O’Conner’s first offer does not open the area for anyone willing to move another team here. It does not mean some local citizen with deep pockets and a love for baseball can buy a team and play ball here in 2009.
The most important words to remember from Minor League Baseball are, ” . . . the club or league whose application is approved may still have rights to the Richmond territory under Minor League Baseball rules.”
As a fan, I wouldn’t mind an AA club instead of triple-A. But then again, I live 50 miles away, so my civic pride isn’t on the line. I must admit, however, that I was amazed that nobody from the area gets any say in the decision. As the article above points out, money doesn’t even talk in these situations. It’s all in the hands of a baseball executive in Florida. I don’t believe that Mr. O’Conner will intentionally screw the city, but there’s no doubt in my mind that at least a consultation with someone from central Virginia might help him make the right decision. Even if it’s just on an informal basis.
I will, of course, monitor the situation, and keep you all on the edges of your seats with future updates.