It’s Time for the Majors to Go Back to the Minors
The All-Star Break is here and that usually means time for creative ideas to address issues facing Major League Baseball. In effort to expand the game’s reach, games like the Little League Classic (Williamsport, PA) and the 2019 game in Omaha surrounding the College World Series have been created to help build deeper connections with young fans.
MLB has hosted games in Puerto Rico, Montreal, Monterrey (Mexico), Sydney (Australia) and Tokyo (Japan) in recent years. Plans for games in Mexico City, the Dominican Republic and the United Kingdom are in the works. This expands the international appeal of MLB, which has a large and growing number of international players.
If MLB is looking for more creative ways to expand the game’s reach at home, teams should play one regular season game a year in the towns that host their Triple-A clubs. Here’s what that would look like:
Scranton Wilkes-Barre (NYY)
Rochester, NY (MIN)
Round Rock (TEX)
Salt Lake (LAA)*
Tacoma, WA (SEA)
Las Vegas (NYM)*
Lehigh Valley, PA (PHI)
Gwinnett, GA (ATL)
New Orleans (MIA)**
Colorado Springs (MIL)
Oklahoma City (LAD)*
El Paso (SD)
**Cities with two major league sports teams (NFL, NBA or NHL)
*Cities with one major league sports team (NFL, NBA or NHL)
This concept makes good sense for a number of reasons. First, it build goodwill with each franchise’s farm system and their fan base. Triple-A fans are accustomed to seeing their players only briefly, on their rise to the big leagues or on rehab assignments, but typically have little opportunity to see the big stars play. Some Triple-A cities are in close proximity to their big league clubs, but others are not. For example, it is easy to find Tigers fans in Toledo, but how many Mets fans are there in Las Vegas? Playing one game a year in that city would help deepen the connection to their parent MLB club.
Most Triple-A stadiums hold anywhere from 9,000-17,000 fans and this game would ensure a sellout and potentially help sell tickets sales for other games. It would also likely provide a nice stimulus to the host city. Many of these games could be broadcasted on national television, (ESPN, Fox Sports and MLB Network) showcasing Minor League ballparks and franchises. As noted in the list of cities, many of them are larger markets and are already home to one or more professional sports teams.
This process could also help vet cities for future franchises, should MLB expand or teams looking to relocate. Commissioner Manfred has listed several cities, including Charlotte, as a potential homes for future expansion teams. Las Vegas and Nashville have also expressed interest in a MLB team. What better way to test the market? Host an annual regular season game and allow the local fan base to respond.
It’s time for Major League Baseball to look homeward.