New Orleans appears destined to lose minor league baseball

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Shrine on Airline

The 2019 season will likely be the final one for the Baby Cakes in New Orleans and likely the beginning of a lengthy hiatus for minor league baseball in the Crescent City.

At Thursday’s Superdome Commission meeting, LSED chairman Kyle France said that two other sports are expected to fill the void at the facility formerly known as Zephyr Field when the Cakes depart for Wichita.

France was asked about the 2020 season and the possibility of minor league baseball returning with another franchise.

“I don’t know about next year, but we are looking beyond that,” said France. “What are we going to do with this facility long term? We have been talking to some rugby folks and soccer teams, and I think there are opportunities to do better than we are doing out there, now, so.

“As far as baseball, that remains to be seen long term.”

France told a reporter that it was up to the state of Louisiana to decide whether to invest money in an extensive renovation of the ballpark, an item that is likely a key component to a minor league team relocation to New Orleans.

NOLA Gold Rugby, a second-year franchise in Major League Rugby that has played its home games at Archbishop Shaw’s new football stadium, is a likely tenant. France said he is also talking to several soccer minor leagues about placing a franchise in New Orleans.

It is clear that the Superdome Commission, which oversees the operation of the Shrine on Airline for the state of Louisiana, thinks there is more money to be made with rugby and soccer.

Maybe so.

But, there’s no denying that minor league baseball in New Orleans has been hampered by several issues.

The first is out-of-town ownership.

The second is the aging facility. As millions were poured into the Superdome and the Smoothie King Center, the baseball stadium – now two decades old – remained mostly untouched.

And third, the Miami Marlins have been a terrible Triple-A affiliate, since the organization has consistently sent bad teams to New Orleans.

Former Zephyrs COO Ron Maestri admits that no minor league baseball is on the horizon in New Orleans.

“It is a tragedy to lose minor league baseball,” said Maestri. “Especially when so many people worked hard to bring it here.”

The dynamic for Zephyrs baseball changed dramatically in the spring of 2002 when the NBA Hornets relocated from Charlotte. Suddenly, Triple-A baseball was third fiddle in the chase for sports sponsorship dollars.

In the meantime, it will be up to the state of Louisiana and Governor John Bel Edwards to decide if New Orleans will attempt to get back into minor league baseball.

France said so in a conversation Thursday with a reporter prior to the scheduled meeting of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District.

Right now, the state appears not to have the palate to make a multi-million dollar effort to bring baseball back.

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Ed Daniels

Ed Daniels

WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM

Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…

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