Minor league baseball in New Orleans will soon be long gone, and it may be gone longer than any home run ever hit at Zephyr Field.
The Baby Cakes are headed for Wichita, Kansas, likely at the end of the 2019 season, and there appears to be no replacement club warming up in the bullpen.
At a recent Superdome Commission meeting, LSED chairman Kyle France said as much, admitting that it will take millions in capital investment from the state of Louisiana to upgrade Zephyr Field and lure a minor league club to the “Shrine on Airline.”
France said that Nola Gold Rugby is a likely tenant for the facility, as is minor-league soccer. France said the two sports may indeed be a better option financially than minor league baseball.
“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. As far as baseball, that remains to be seen long-term.”
What is a tad startling about the entire situation is the lack of concern by the state over the prospect of losing baseball.
With all due apologies to rugby and soccer, there is no way one of the 50 largest TV markets in the country should not have professional baseball. You mean they can get it right in the Mississippi cities of Biloxi and Jackson, and New Orleans can’t?
Why aren’t the state’s political leaders and political leaders in Jefferson Parish embarrassed by the prospect of not having minor-league baseball? Those are legitimate and fair questions.
While hundreds of millions of dollars have been pumped into the Superdome and millions more into the Smoothie King Center, Zephyr Field has been allowed to languish. Neglect isn’t a harsh enough term to use for how the state has treated the so-called “Shrine on Airline.”
And, nothing against soccer and rugby, but the only way either one of those sports should be the headliner at Zephyr Field is if they are a major-league sport.
Zephyr Field was built to be a ball park. It is the place where Lance Berkman prepped for a major league career that included 1,905 hits, 366 home runs, a World Series appearance with Houston in 2005 and a World Series championship with St. Louis in 2011.
Former Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was a Zephyrs catcher. Future National League most valuable player Christian Yelich wore New Orleans on his chest.
But, hey, let’s not get sentimental about Zephyr Field. It is only minor league baseball. And, no one was going to the games anyhow.
Oh, well. How sad.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarion herald.org.