sports

Charlotte’s major-league dreams grow like boxy weeds. Is that enough to play ball?

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Fantasy baseball in Charlotte differs from fantasy baseball in other cities. In other cities, people draft Major League players. In Charlotte, we attempt to draft a Major League team.

The fantasy is that we can support Major League Baseball. We’re not ready. Let the next wave of expansion, if indeed there is such a wave, wash up in Montreal or Mexico City, Nashville or Vancouver.

There are major under-performers in baseball. At some point they’ll move the way the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics and Vancouver Grizzlies and the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers have.

Baseball leaders gathered in Miami this week for Tuesday’s All-Star Game. You could tell it was the All-Star Game because people were seen at Marlins Park. Commissioner Rob Manfred gave his state of the sport speech at a Monday Town Hall.

Baseball would like to expand. The league’s overall attendance and ratings are healthy, and there are only 30 teams. Thirty-two is a much friendlier number.

Manfred talked about potential sites for new teams, and one of the sites he mentioned was Charlotte.

Decades ago, every Major League team that began with an M and wanted a new stadium pretended it was going to move to Charlotte. Miami, Milwaukee and Minnesota all flirted with us, and then went home and said, “Boy, they love us there. Sure wish we could get some of that here.”

But it wasn’t love they craved. It was a new stadium. All three got one. We didn’t even get flowers.

We are no longer little

Charlotte is growing, as all those look-alike apartment buildings attest. Every time I see a new one grow out of the ground like a boxy weed I think, “You’ll never rent it; everybody already is here.”

A month later the building is occupied, and two new boxy weeds fly out of the Charlotte soil. We no longer are little. We have people. We have more people than Cincinnati, San Diego and Kansas City, and they have baseball teams.

But we won’t support Major League Baseball, not yet and not now. To make it in this city you have to play downtown (which means that everybody who thinks a soccer stadium should be built elsewhere is wildly mistaken).

Let’s say baseball sends us an expansion team. Expansion teams share two qualities. Because they are new, they are beloved, and because they are new they are terrible. We’ll support it anyway, at least until the newness wears off.

The team will do well on weekends because fans from Greensboro and Spartanburg, from Raleigh and Columbia, will come to town. But when there’s a weeknight matchup with Seattle, Cincinnati or San Diego, every scalper in town will be asking, “What was I thinking?”

You weren’t.

The Carolina Panthers play only eight home games a season and draw fans from a 100-mile radius. The baseball team, which plays 81 home games, won’t do that, not on weeknights. On weeknights, the bleachers will be as empty as they are at Charlotte Motor Speedway during a race. Or at least as empty as they were, before the speedway tore some of them down.

Corporate dollars are spoken for

Also, most of our corporate entertainment dollars (the NFL, NBA, PGA, NASCAR and minor-league baseball) are accounted for.

But wait. The Charlotte Knights lead Class AAA in attendance.

BB&T Ballpark is perfect, and a game is an event. Buy a minor-league priced ticket, find your friends, drink a little beer and, if you’re in the mood, look down at what’s going on on the field.

I like baseball more than soccer. So why have I been a proponent for big league soccer and not big league baseball?

Soccer is smaller. We can fit it in.

Charlotte is growing. Unofficially, construction began on nine new apartment buildings, which look as if they are members of the same family, while I was writing this column.

There will come a team when the newcomers will help us support Major League Baseball.

This isn’t it.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

More from this issue of the Tom Talks newsletter:

[WELL DONE: My love affair with sizzling bacon, and sizzling Bacon, and baconsizzling.com]

[TWITTER TIRADE: Former Panther Steve Smith still speaking truth to clowns. Here’s hoping they listen.]

[SLAMMIVERSARY: DeAngelo Williams grapples with life after football, but it could work out]

[SHORT TAKES: $5 for Panthers Fan Fest, for first time ever? Here’s a better value]

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Charlotte’s major-league dreams grow like boxy weeds. Is that enough to play ball?

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