I just got back home from the first meeting of the Ypsilanti 2020 Task Force. I was going to tell you all about it, but, thanks to Steve Pierce, it’s probably not necessary. He was there, video camera in hand, so I imagine that everything will be up on his site by the end of the week. I will, however, say that I liked the direction and the energy of the group. It was nice for a change to have a positive conversation about our city and what we might be able to pull off if we work together. I was very much impressed by the other members of the group and I look forward to working with them. The problems we face are daunting, but, if tonight was any indication, I feel as though we might have a fighting chance of making it through what we’ve got ahead of us.
The brightest spot of the evening, at least for me, was the almost giddy enthusiasm we all seemed to share for the idea of a minor league baseball team taking up residence at Water Street. I’m not a big fan of professional team sports in general, but I’ve got to confess that the idea has even got me a little excited. Maybe it’s a pipe dream that we could lure a team here, but what’s life if you don’t have a dream? Maybe this is the little ray of sunshine that will keep us going through these difficult times to come.
City Councilperson Brian Robb is among those pushing the idea of a minor league franchise. (His suggestion is that we look into the Frontier League, which isn’t tied in any way to Major League Baseball.) He’s got a compelling post as to why he thinks it would work over at his site. Here, with his permission, is a clip:
…In 2006, Traverse City drew 203,574, Gateway 182,124, Washington 152,805, and Evansville 130,212, Kalamazoo 119,530, and Rockford 115,776.
There are currently two teams in the Frontier League that have suspended play in 2007. The Mid-Missouri Mavericks are building a new stadium and the Ohio Valley Redcoats are looking for a new home.
The teams in the Frontier League play 96 games, with 48 of those being at home. That’s 4,000 people a night coming to our city to eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores all summer. That’s not bad. And when you consider the old residential proposal for Water Street calls for about 1,500 new, full-time residents, it’s awesome…
Brian’s even named the team, created a logo, and reserved the URL. They’re called the Ypsilanti Liberators. (I was going to lobby for the Ypsilanti Eccentrics, but the Liberators is starting to grow on me.)
My experience with baseball is somewhat limited. Everything I know is due to the fact that I had a friend in high school who was drafted by the Atlanta Braves. I saw him play on his way up to the big leagues, and I saw him play on his way back down. I guess I should have enjoyed watching him play in major league stadiums more, but the best times I ever had watching him play were during those periods when he’d been moved down to play for the Durham Bulls, or whatever the Atlanta farm team was that played the Toledo Mud Hens. There was something very nice about going to a park and watching a hometown team play, surrounded by fans that didn’t have to go into debt to afford their tickets. Players, minus the big league egos, were out talking with kids and everyone seemed happy. Like I said, I’m not a big baseball fan, but if we could have something like that, I’d buy season tickets in a heartbeat. I might even wear a Liberators cap.
Here’s my contribution to the discussion that’s heating up…. I wonder if it might be possible for a community to pool its resources and buy into a franchise like the one that Brian’s suggesting. I wonder if shares could be sold within the community, so that it’s not just a few big investrors coming in, setting up, and reaping the profit. What if, I’m wondering, we could all do it together and everyone could share in the risk, and the reward, together? What if we could offer $10 shares so that every kid in Washtenaw County could have a piece of ownership? We’d still need some multi-million dollar investors, but wouldn’t it be cool if 1,000 of our friends and neighbors also comtributed? That idea really excites me.
And here’s another idea. Why not start a petition, getting people to sign up and say that if a team came, they’d buy season tickets? Wouldn’t investors take us a lot more seriously if we had 1,000 ready to pony up their hard-earned cash for season tickets?