Memphis as "Mecca" of Minor-League Baseball



After returning from minor-league baseball's winter meeting in Orlando, team official John Pontius feels better than he has at any time in the last three years about the team's prospects.

Pontius, treasurer of the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation, said there is no ownership change on the horizon, the bondholders are content with the restructuring 18 months ago, and the affiliation with the St. Louis Cardinals is "solidly in place."

"I see no changes in ownership or operations of the Redbirds in the near or intermediate term," he said Thursday. "At some point in time there will be an ownership change, but that is not even being discussed today. The story is that there is not a story."

About 150 minor-league teams were represented at the three-day meeting. Pontius said that for minor-league baseball junkies, Memphis is "mecca" and still gets a positive buzz.

"We have everything going for us," he said. "Memphis is the largest minor-league city and has the best affiliation and the best stadium. I'm impressed with how much the industry knows about the team and ballpark."

Attendance has been declining since AutoZone Park's smash opening, but Pontius is optimistic that 2011 will reverse that. The unusually hot weather took a toll, he believes — but the summer was also dry and the team was better than average, so who knows? The reckoning will come in 2014 when the suite leases expire.

"If people want to help us," he said, "then buy tickets and attend games."

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