Comment of the Week: Will Minor League Baseball seem to work in Tampa?

Bob & Jackie Washburn joined the conversation this week with a creative future use for Tropicana Field:

Just a thought, but considering that Tropicana was originally built without having a team, why not use it for a Rays farm team, maybe just single A to start with, after the Rays move to a new stadium. A case in point here would be the Atlanta Braves who have a farm team just outside Atlanta, only 30 or so miles to Fulton County Stadium. The Braves also ended their relationship with their farm team in Richmond (VA) just last year because Richmond wouldn’t enhance the facility.

This solves a couple of problems, one being the use of Tropicana, and another being to reduce the Rays costs in supporting their farm teams. I think everyone needs to make the necessary concessions here… I know we do, we being 2 super senior citizens who drive 3 hours each way from Melbourne Beach to see the games.

Keep up the good articles. Thanks, Bob & Jackie

First, complimenting my writing is always a good way to earn COW honors.

Second, while I responded that I don’t think a minor league team is the answer for a lot of different reasons, Bob’s idea had my wheels spinning. If memory serves (and we are going to have to rely on my memory alone because I can’t find any league-wide minor league attendance databases online), the Florida State League is either at the bottom, or near the bottom, in attendance among full-season minor leagues. I think that begs two questions:

1. Why doesn’t minor league baseball seem to work in Florida?;

2. Is that relevant to an evaluation of Major League Baseball in Florida?

As to the first, I have no idea. Part of the problem has to be the cities. Most of the FSL teams are in snow-bird cities like Port St. Lucie, Fort Myers, and Dunedin. The teams are in those cities because their big clubs train there. And their big clubs train there because they have fans there in the spring. But, when summer rolls around, those fans return to the big club’s home city leaving the FSL club bereft of support.

Also, the more permanent cities on the FSL circuit now have big clubs. I remember going to games at Al Lang (and Al Lopez) when I was kid. It was awesome. Pretty good crowds. Great parks. Good times. I especially loved (and I suppose still love – since it’s still standing) Al Lang. It is a real shame that we can’t find something to do with that park because it is a gem.

As to the second question, I think minor league baseball and Major League Baseball in Florida are unrelated. For one, they appeal to different crowds. Minor League baseball is a niche sport designed for purists that love baseball, prospect honks that have to the first to see a guy, and local families looking for a reasonable night out. Big League baseball has a broader audience.

In the final analysis, while the Rays might have killed my chance to take my son to a minor league game in town, I am ok with the tradeoff. If I really want him to have that experience, we’ll go spend a weekend in Charlotte County.

Thanks for the comment Bob and Jackie.

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