I had questions, he had answers.
I was really curious as to what kind of stuff I should expect next year in Frisco. I mean, the club's basically been for sale for the better part of the last two seasons. What's coming? Because I know some stuff is coming. I was also wondering what went into the decision in Myrtle Beach that ended with Texas being pushed out of their comfortable bed and the Cubs in the Pelicans' sheets. How are Player Development Contracts negotiated? Here's the good news about my curiosity; it was all able to be satiated with one 50-minute phone call. One guy had all the answers I sought regarding these two queries. And the best part? He sensed my questions. Actually, he probably read them on Twitter and just reached out. I am the conduit, here's what I found out.
Frisco has some changes coming its way. I pressed for a few details and it genuinely doesn't sound like they're all completely hashed out yet. Chuck did say that the park is truly one of the unique fields in all of baseball. There really isn't any way you could confuse it with any other park in the country. Just through the simple passage of time, some stuff has become dated. The video board and the sound system come to mind. While it doesn't sound like anything is certain regarding changes to the ballpark, he did say 2015 is just the beginning of a multi-year plan to step up the "wow" factor and improve the fan experience. Professional Sport Catering (PSC) will continue to provide the food and beverage, but a few changes with regards to variety wouldn't surprise me at all. Chuck continuously mentions paying close attention to the "sights, sounds, and smells" of the entire experience. To that end, I expect to see some updates (I think that old video board is toast), but not an overhaul to the ballpark next year.
On to more exciting stuff. Chuck and his group love the name "RoughRiders", and they're keeping it. Everything after that, is on the table. "We're close to finalizing things" with regards to a new on-field look for the club. New color scheme, (though I don't think it'll be a huge departure from the Red, White, and Black that have always comprised the feel), new logos, new uniforms. It's all coming. NEW HATS! As Chuck mentioned, they're finalizing the details and don't have a date for an unveiling, but I'd think it'll be close to the time the season starts. I'll keep you posted, and you keep $30 handy for a new lid. Unless they look terrible, then you can buy a Myrtle Be...oh wait. Yeah, about that.
So I started looking into the history of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans about the time I began hearing rumors that they might not be a Rangers affiliate much longer. This is a club with a cool history and you can read it for yourself, but they're basically the Durham Bulls. The city of Durham was granted a AAA affiliate in 1998, so the team moved to Myrtle Beach and re-branded as the Pelicans in the high-A Carolina League. Basically from 1980-2010, Myrtle (Durham) was a Braves affiliate. Then, about the same time Chuck took the reins with Texas, they switched to being a Rangers affiliate. There wasn't any history there, it just made sense at the time. In all my conversations with Chuck and with anyone from the front office, I've never gotten the vibe that there are any ill-feelings for the way things ended with the big league ownership change. I've seen Chuck have many friendly conversations with JD and Thad and AJ and scouts and former employees of his. Someday, I'm gonna get him to tell me the whole story of what happened there, and then I'm gonna tell it to you. But I digress.
Myrtle didn't have any real history with Texas, and their PDC (Player Development Contract) was up at the end of the season. Now this is where I learned something new yesterday. I always thought minor league clubs paid a fee to the big league clubs based on attendance or revenue or some derivative of the those. That was partially correct. Every year approximately 7% of ticket revenue from each minor league club goes to Major League Baseball. That's what I had wrong. I thought it went to the parent club directly, and I thought it was variable, not fixed. It doesn't and it isn't. So the Myrtle Beach Pelicans didn't write a check to the Texas Rangers every year, they wrote a check to Major League Baseball. This changed my perception of the affiliate shuffle a bit. Sure there are obvious benefits to being aligned with a more national brand, such as the Cubs. You may see a slight bump in attendance by affiliating with them, but it's not like that's the driving factor I previously thought it might be. As a matter of fact, the negotioations between MiLB clubs and MLB clubs are strictly forbidden from introducing financials into the conversation. Baseball (both MiLB and MLB) doesn't want a situation where, say Frisco, would give a better deal to the Rangers than they would the Mets. It's 7% of ticket revenue and it goes to the big house, regardless of your affiliation.
Having learned that, I realized deciding upon an affiliate allegiance, from the minor league club's perspective, becomes a decision somewhat based on feel and gut. Chuck confirmed my suspicions and mentioned the driving factors become, "what is in the best interest of the local community." Chuck didn't mention this, but I was thinking about the number of people I know from Texas who regularly vacation on the east coast. I don't know many. (Too bad the Pensacola franchise isn't for sale) Myrtle Beach is already a haven for vacationing MidWesterners and I'm sure their Convention and Visitors Bureau is targeting that as an area for even more growth. If you're an MiLB club, you're going to pay the piper regardless, so might as well put the customers and the community's priorities into focus first. It's why Frisco works so well and has led AA in attendance for nearly a decade running. The club is perfect for the community. Chuck said they had to take a hard look at the opportunities that were going to be available and despite having had an outstanding relationship with Texas over the last 4 years, they had to put the community first. When I remove emotion, I don't blame them one bit. Like it or not, the Cubs are a national brand. The 7% is coming out regardless, but if you have a chance to put a slightly more familiar name if front of your customers and your community you, well, kinda owe it to them. In short, I learned that while all deals are still driven by money (and attendance) this one is driven less by money than I had originally thought.
I'm gonna miss watching the Birds and interacting with the fine folks on the Beach. The good news is, we're keeping the players! I made some calls and Lewis Brinson's career didn't end, Ryan Cordell will still be balling, and Travis Demeritte will still play second base. Where? Don't know yet. I know the "who". And now I know the "why". All that's left is the "where".
In the meantime, FRISCO'S GETTING NEW UNIFORMS!
As always, enjoy baseball. Love Ya!