Zephyrs’ departure could dawn a new baseball era

daniels    Are the Zephyrs leaving? The answers are: Perhaps – and no.
    The AAA club, owned by North Carolina businessman Don Beaver, may be sold, but professional baseball does have a future in New Orleans.
    And, it might be a bright one.
    Houston Astros owner Jim Crane created quite a stir when he said he was talking to Beaver about buying the club and moving it to a suburb, north of Houston.
    For New Orleans that may be best.
    “I think we need a fresh beginning in many ways,” said SMG vice president Doug Thornton. SMG manages Zephyr Stadium for the state of Louisiana.
    “We need to put some money into the facility and upgrade it for the team,” added Thornton. “We need an owner who will be interested in this market and making a go of it in this market.”
    Beaver may own the team, but the state of Louisiana holds the trump card.
    Louisiana has a lease with the Zephyrs through the 2016 season.
    So, here’s a possible scenario.
    Beaver makes a deal with Crane to sell him the team. Beaver then negotiates a deal with Louisiana that includes a replacement team. That team could be either a AAA or AA club.
    Thornton said a Double A team is “a viable option.” Three teams in the Southern League are within a 3 1/2-hour drive from New Orleans. They are Jackson, Mobile and Pensacola.
    Thornton said he’s been contacted by a handful of potential buyers for the Zephyrs. A local buyer with a long-term lease could help to acquire millions from the Louisiana Legislature in capital improvements to Zephyr Field. The facility has changed little since it opened in April 1997.
    “I do think there are improvements that need to be made,” Thornton said. “The building has aged quite a bit. It needs to be upgraded, just like the Superdome and the Arena. Over time, we need to invest in our sports infrastructure to make money for our teams and be viable.”
    More premium seating could be part of a stadium upgrade. And, Louisiana baseball deserves its own Baseball Hall of Fame. It would be a place where the story of the New Orleans Pelicans could be told.
    Two members of the Baseball Hall of Fame who hail from Louisiana would have their stories on display in their home state.
    Lake Charles native Ted Lyons last pitched in the big leagues in May 1946. Sixty-seven years later, he still leads the Chicago White Sox in victories with 260.
    Mel Ott was born in Gretna. He went on to hit 511 career home runs for the New York Giants. Did you know that both Ott and Lyons were managing in the big leagues in the 1940s?
    Baseball fans need to know. And the many who represented our state in the pros deserve recognition. Baseball’s future in Louisiana is not tenuous. It is bright.
    Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
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