Does minor league baseball belong in Jackson?
While that question has been one that’s been asked a lot in recent months since The Sun uncovered documents implying the city of Jackson had been sending more money to the team than the team owners and city administration had agreed on in 2010.
There’s no indication from current Mayor Scott Conger that agreement will continue other than what’s in the contract, which Generals principal owner David Freeman has said he plans to extend the option for three years.
Then the news breaks over the weekend that Major League Baseball’s negotiations with Minor League Baseball to shut down 25 percent of the teams and the Generals are on the list of possible teams that could be contracted.
So there’s a possibility that Major League Baseball could abruptly settle the uncomfortable discussions happening at the local level.
But should that happen?
There are a lot of important questions to answer if that were to happen the city would have to figure out – mainly what should be done with the 6,000-seat stadium sitting at the eastern edge of the city on the side of Interstate 40 where 40,000 vehicles pass by it every day.
It wouldn’t take long for that stadium to be an eye sore as people are coming in from Nashville if it’s left to its own devices and the elements of nature if the city were to not maintain its upkeep.
Why is Jackson even on MLB’s list of targets for the possible contraction?
MiLB (Minor League Baseball) confirmed to Adam Friedman on Monday there is a set of criteria that puts the Generals in the danger zone including quality of stadium, team’s proximity to other teams in the league and its proximity to its Major League affiliate. Those were the only items mentioned to Adam, but there are others.
Taking those three into account, things don’t look good for the Generals since Jackson is in the northwestern corner of the Southern League’s geographic footprint and is about four hours away from its three closest neighbors (Chattanooga, Birmingham and Tennessee). And being an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks – two time zones away – is strike two.
But there are other Southern League teams that should be on the list if those are two of the most important items in the criteria. The Jacksonville Suns are five hours from their closest neighbor in the Southern League, Pensacola.
Pensacola is an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. Biloxi is an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. So if a player is to be called up directly from Double A to the Majors, they’re going from the Gulf Coast to nearly Canada to make that transition.
I don’t know of anything wrong with the stadium. I’ve been in the locker room enough to know there’s plenty of space for the players when they’re in there before and after the game.
The Diamondbacks have been done a good job putting a quality product that is the actual team on the field for the fans in Jackson, and we’ve had the chance to have a championship team represent the Hub City three of the past four years.
The option to drive down to The Ballpark at Jackson, maybe stop at one of the group of restaurants nearby for dinner beforehand, is one that adds a good piece of that quality of life to Jackson that a lot of the people running for mayor and city council earlier this year were talking about.
So does minor league baseball belong in Jackson? It appears there are more risks if the team were to leave than if they stay.
Brandon Shields is the editor of The Jackson Sun. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 731-425-9751. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or on Instagram at editorbrandon.
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