BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — A Louisiana legislator is pitching his message, as the COVID-19 pandemic risks leaving some Major League Baseball teams unable to play in their home ballparks when their coronavirus-delayed season begins.
A resolution by state Rep. Mark Wright invites any MLB team displaced by the virus to play temporarily in the New Orleans area. The Covington Republican has suggested the Shrine on Airline, located in the suburb of Metairie, as a potential site.
“I think people would really appreciate the chance to sit down, watch a game and just talk in person, whether it’s with masks or not,” Wright said. “Ideally, we would have some sort of ability to put fans in the stadium, even if spread six feet apart.”
“We would support the placement of an MLB team at the Shrine on Airline, paired with safety and health guidelines for players, coaches, stadium employees and patrons,” Jefferson Parish Chamber of Commerce President Todd Murphy said in a statement. “The addition would bring a great quality of life activity that Greater New Orleans has been lacking the past few months.”
The state-run facility, which hosted the minor-league New Orleans Baby Cakes (previously the Zephyrs) before the team left for south-central Kansas in 2019, holds roughly 10,000 spectators. While the stadium lacks the size of full-time major-league venues, Wright said a temporary relocation could showcase Louisiana’s ability to call a new minor-league team home.
“With the right people and the right organization, we could resurrect minor-league baseball in Louisiana,” he said. “That depends on a relationship with a major-league team, and you never know what this [resolution] could lead to.”
Professional baseball enjoys a leveled history in Louisiana. Long before the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, a team of the same name graced the minor-leagues on and off, between 1887 and 1977. The Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees are among the major-league teams that have held spring training in Louisiana.
Louisiana has cradled such major-league talents as Mel Ott, Rusty Staub, Ron Guidry, Will Clark, Gerald Williams, Chuck Finley and Albert Belle. Louisiana State University alum Alex Bregman, DJ LeMahieu, and Aaron and Austin Nola remain active on MLB rosters.
Wright’s resolution marks only the latest push to bring Major League Baseball to Louisiana, if temporarily. Former New Orleans Mayor Chep Morrison and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer each sought to recruit an MLB team during their terms. (Roemer considered the San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners most ripe for such a move, though both teams ultimately stayed put.)
“Our population makes it a challenge to host a major-league team full-time,” Wright said. “But if there are displaced teams, we’re an option.”
It’s unclear whether any teams will accept the legislator’s invite. Most teams are waiting on their local mayors and governors to announce whether — and how — they will loosen virus-inspired restrictions.
Major League Baseball officials have voiced plans to return in July, though negotiations between league and union leaders have left the specifics of their plan murky.