Was it really that much of a surprise?
After years and years of out-of-town owners, and years and years of empty seats, our Triple-A baseball team is departing, no later than September 2021. That’s when the Baby Cakes’ lease with the Superdome Commission expires.
Will the Cakes be a lame duck for three more years?
Not likely. As soon as New Orleans can find a suitable replacement, it is time to bid the Cakes adieu.
Hopefully, they will take their name with them.
I guess the name produced its desired outcome. General manager Cookie Rojas, whose job is the bottom line, said repeatedly that the Cakes were No. 1 in merchandise in all of minor league baseball. But, in a town with professional sports, with names like the Saints and Pelicans, Baby Cakes didn’t cut it.
That’s the least of New Orleans’ baseball problems.
What New Orleans needs is local ownership and a dramatic re-do of Zephyr Field.
When the stadium opened in 1997, it was a solid minor league venue. But since then, it has been left far behind. If you don’t believe that, go to Birmingham’s new downtown ballpark. It is superb. Plenty of stuff for the kids to do, every seat is a great one, and the suites are large and expansive.
The outfield has places where you can picnic and sit in a rocking chair and watch the action.
There’s one way that local ownership and a massive renovation can work. That is, involve Saints ownership and make it part of the next negotiation for long-term leases for the Saints and Pelicans.
The Saints and Pelicans could help sell baseball tickets. And, my guess is, you could get a few thousand to show when it’s Alvin Kamara or Drew Brees Night at the ballpark.
Baseball was never easy here after the Hornets arrived in the spring of 2002. The NBA not only captured the interest of the ticket-buying public, but it also procured some of the sponsor money that once belonged to the Zephyrs.
So, you can’t blame the current owners for departing.
They go to Wichita, where in the spring and summer, they will be top banana. Listening to the Wichita mayor announcing the team’s pending arrival, he plans to use the redevelopment of the ballpark and the surrounding complex as a downtown revitalization.
Good for them.
Here, it is time to hit the baseball reset button. That includes local ownership, a new and improved Zephyr Field and the return of the name Zephyrs.
If you rode the Zephyr at Pontchartrain Beach, you get it.
I never got Baby Cakes. And, apparently neither did the ticket-buying public.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at email@example.com.