Richard Hyatt: Braves aren’t looking this way for expansion

February 10, 2012 

The Atlanta Braves are looking for a new home for one of their Class-A affiliates, but they haven’t been shopping in Columbus.

Neither has any other owner or potential buyer. Golden Park is rotting in its own history and the city continues to be without a minor league baseball team.

The Braves already operate two farm clubs in the state. Their Class-AAA team is in Gwinnett County and their low-A club is in Rome. You would think a town 90 minutes away from Turner Field would be an attractive location, but as far as anyone knows the big club hasn’t thought about Golden Park.

No one from the Braves or any other team has contacted the Parks and Recreation Department or the Columbus Sports Council. “I haven’t heard a word from anybody,” says Herbert Greene, executive director of the Sports Council. “Two years ago, there was a nibble but that’s the last thing I heard.”

Reports indicate that the Braves want to move their affiliate from Lynchburg, Va., to Wilmington, N.C., in 2014. Earlier this week, the Wilmington City Council voted to begin talks with the Braves and with Mandalay Baseball Properties, an entertainment company that dabbles in sports.

Those of us that enjoy the nostalgia of an old ballpark assume stadiums like ours are attractive. We appreciate the quaint architecture, the cry of a peanut vendor walking the aisles and a history that tells us how the stars of yesteryear played on that very turf.

Old-timers sing about the Red Birds. Others remember the unusual naming of the Confederate Yankees … the Astros and a first baseman named Glenn Davis who gave up baseball for politics … the Mudcats and their magical touch at selling caps and T-shirts … and the Red Stixx and the Catfish.

Many teams, many owners and many players have heard the crack of the bat at Golden Park. Unfortunately, most of them didn’t hear the ringing of the cash register often enough. We’ve been without a minor league since the Catfish swam away in 2008.

So why wouldn’t the Braves be interested?

Having another minor league team clustered around the big club seems attractive.

Columbus might seem to be a viable move until you hear Braves’ officials talk about other cities building them taxpayer-funded ballparks.

Local people talk about work that was done on Golden Park when it was an Olympic venue in 1996. They forget that was 16 years ago. They overlook the drainage issues on the field and the crowded concession areas.

The Braves are waving a 20-year lease in front of Wilmington officials. In return, the city is supposed to erect a $35 million stadium with 6,000 seats for the junior millionaires to play.

What would Columbus Council do if the Braves showed up here with such a deal? Show them the road to Wilmington, I imagine.

Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. He is also found at www.richardhyattcolumbus.com

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