Since 1968 the A’s have called Oakland home:

In this writer’s opinion, the Oakland A’s time is about to come to a bitter end. In 1955  the then Philadelphia Athletics packed up their troubles and headed West. Like Davy Crockett, Horatio Alger, or The Donner Party, making a brief stop in Kansas City. Just over a decade later they once again loaded up the Mayflower trucks (honestly I have no idea if they used Mayflower) for the gold coast and landed in Oakland California. And have been trying to leave it seems ever since. This week MLB issued a statement giving the A’s their blessing issuing this statement:

MLB A's Statement

You see, even though the team has pledged to finance a 1 Billion Dollar stadium at the proposed Waterfront Howard Terminal project. The city of Oakland has dragged its feet, hemmed and hawed and done everything but vote on the proposal. The Athletics ownership has had enough with the thirty year gridlock it’s faced in getting a new ballpark and issued a statement itself. 

“The future success of the A’s depends on a new ballpark,” Oakland A’s owner John Fisher said in a statement. “Oakland is a great baseball town, and we will continue to pursue our waterfront ballpark project. We will also follow MLB’s direction to explore other markets.”

 

Another veiled threat? 

I don’t think so. you see, there are serious suitors for this Major League franchise and they aren’t shy about letting their intentions be known. Cities like Nashville, Las Vegas, and Portland have let their desires spill out. there is talk of MLB wanting back into Montreal, also mentioned as a possible destination is Charlotte North Carolina. I sat down this week with Rick Curti, The CEO of the Charlotte Bats and founder of Bring MLB to Charlotte. Rick is a passionate baseball man who grew up in LA loving the Dodgers. He moved east he found that the one thing missing in his life was Major League Baseball. 

 

A Cross Country Love Affair:

Tom: Rick Growing up in LA, did you grow up a Dodgers fan, Angel’s fan, or are you a switch hitter?

Rick: I grew up a Dodgers fan and still am a Dodgers fan. I’m a Mike Trout fan too. I love Mike Trout, he’s like the perfect face, he’s a good role model, he doesn’t curse. 

Tom: So why Charlotte, Rick – why there and not Vegas or Nashville. Why is Charlotte a better destination than a return to Montreal or an invasion up into Portland?

Rick:  Well, Charlotte is one of the fastest growing cities in the past 25 years. I used to live in Las Vegas for 5 years so Charlotte and Vegas are kind of similar to be quite honest with you. Same population, same people – a lot of transplants, fast growing city.

I think what sets Charlotte apart is that we have South Carolina next door and South Carolina doesn’t have pro sports at all. They have minor league baseball and college football and so that helps us. We are two states in one. There is no major league baseball in Tennessee or in Virginia so that helps a lot as well. Atlanta is about 5 hours away, Washington, DC is 10 hours so this would be a perfect gold mine. Why North Carolina has never had a major league baseball team is beyond me but yet Washington, DC….how many times have we had major league baseball – 3 times already. 

The old Senators team came back and Ted Waylens managed them and now the Nationals are back, so why not look at other markets? North Carolina would be the perfect place to have major league baseball. I think what hurts us is that people stereotype it with Nascar and stereotype it with Tarheels and Duke. When I first came here, that’s all it was, Duke and Tarheels. Now I’ve been here a while and we are getting more transplants moving here and people are starting to question why Charlotte doesn’t have major league baseball. Now that the Knights are here in Charlotte, I think that’s helped tremendously.

Tom: That leads me right into my next question. Have you gotten any pushback from the Knights?

Rick: I actually know Dan Rajkowski – he’s the president of the Knights. I haven’t, ( Gotten Pushback) but when I first moved here, there was a person that was trying to get major league baseball to Charlotte. He went at it the wrong way, unfortunately. He was an attorney, the Knights were in South Carolina and for 7 year he sued them every time they were trying to come to Charlotte. That turned really ugly and eventually, he lost all of his appeals and now they’ve built the stadium uptown.

But no, not really. I’ve never said anything negative about the Knights, I’ve always wanted the Knights to come here. I always felt that if the Knights come to Charlotte that would be our best opportunity for major league baseball because if people can come and see a minor league game then they could get the feel of “Hey, maybe we could get major league baseball out of it” and since the Knights have been here, you see a lot of people talking about it. The commissioner came out with this list. I think a lot of it has to do with the Knights being here in Charlotte.  They’ve actually been really nice to me.

Tom: You must have been thrilled to see your name on that list.

Rick: I was ecstatic. I knew nothing about it. I had people who I barely know on Facebook send me a “Hey, did you check out this story about Charlotte getting MLB” and I was like “what?”. I saw this list and I’m like, see, I told you. I’ve been telling people this for many, many years that Charlotte should get a major league team. It just makes sense. I grew up watching baseball all my life. 

Las Vegas, I can understand because of the gambling. Fantasy sports has helped tremendously and has gotten rid of that taboo about a professional team in Vegas. Even before I moved here I wondered why Charlotte didn’t have a team. They have pro football, they have pro basketball, they have a pro hockey team in Raleigh. I think that’s what helps us as well – not only is Charlotte a growing city, but Raleigh is growing as well. Along with these two growing cities, you have South Carolina right next door. To me, it just makes perfect sense to have a major league baseball team in Charlotte.

Tom: That brings us to my next question. The Carolinas have a deep history with minor league baseball. Some would even call it a love affair. Do you think this is a hurdle at all in bringing MLB to Charlotte or is it just a “Pathway builder” for you and your grass roots movement?

Rick: I think it helps us a lot because we do have a lot of minor league baseball teams here….but so does California, so does Florida, so do a lot of other places.  

Tom: Do you feel that major league baseball would have any issue with moving a west coast team back to the east coast.

Rick: I think there may be a hurdle there. I think if the A’s were to relocate, I think the most logical destination would be Las Vegas since their AAA team is in Vegas. I always thought the Rays would move to Charlotte to be honest with you. We’ll find out in 2027 when their lease expires at Tropicana Field.

Tom: Charlotte and the entire triangle has really morphed into a melting pot of Americans over the last 20 years. A Lot of folks from the North East have moved down there. Do you think that’s helped drive interest in bringing a major league team to Charlotte?

Rick: I think it’s helped a lot. It is a melting pot here. When I first moved here, I honestly didn’t know much about Charlotte. I just thought about NASCAR, the Andy Griffith Show, Duke and Tar Heels. The more I lived here, the more I realized man, we have everything here in Charlotte.

Tom: One last question: I have heard in doing my research over the past few days that there isn’t significant interest from the investment side of Charlotte right now to bring in a team or build a stadium. If anyone’s talking about it, I can’t find it. Do you know of investors that are willing to pump in the kind of money that this project will need? 

Rick: Yeah. I think the push back is right now it’s just speculation and Charlotte has been used in the past as a pawn for teams. I remember when I was doing research, I had no idea that the Twins in the mid-90’s were looking into Charlotte.

The people voted on it here and they did want to finance the stadium, but to be honest with you, it just was never going to happen. The owner of the Twins just wanted a new stadium. I think that’s what’s scaring people away. They see us on this list but are hesitant because we don’t want to be used as a pawn, we don’t want to be like, here we go – we’re all excited, we’re Charlotte, we have the money, we have the investors and then it’s like “NO” 

Tom: One last LAST question: It’s really difficult for even a mid-major market to keep this interest going. When did you start this project and how much has it grown since your initial idea to bring MLB to Charlotte.

Rick: I started about 7 years ago. It was just something that kind of bugged me. I would watch baseball and I would – no disrespect to Milwaukee or the other small markets – I would just say to myself why doesn’t North Carolina have a major league baseball team. It kept bugging me and bugging me until a friend of mine said to start a Facebook page and see what happens. I called it “Let’s bring MLB to Charlotte”.

I for one hope it happens for Charlotte and of course, for Rick Curti. Grass roots movements built most of the sports landscape in America. While I don’t personally believe the A’s will be moving to Charlotte. I, like Rick, hope one day a team seizes this opportunity. 

 

As always you can follow/ give me grief on Twitter @Tmurph207

 

Feature Image : New renderings released of the Oakland A’s plans to build a waterfront stadium at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal. Credit Oakland Athletics