Nashville’s bid to get a Major League Baseball team is getting national attention and exposure, as well as generating for the sport some much needed favorable publicity. USA Today national baseball writer Bob NIghtengale put them in his column last week, with the teaser being that the Nashville team might also become MLB’s first Black-owned franchise.
The board of directors and advisory committee of the Music City Baseball group includes three-time World Series champion and former MLB general manager Dave Stewart, who was also a topflight starting pitcher during his playing days. Stewart is one of only five Black men to ever hold that position with any MLB team, so his expertise is certainly a valuable asset for the club, which incidentally will be called the Nashville Stars.
The historical and cultural significance of that move cannot be overstated. They are being named after a Negro League team, in recognition of and honoring the past traditions of teams who played here in the days when segregation forced Blacks to have their own league. The Music City group’s roster is an impressive one. It includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Hall of Fame Manager Tony LaRussa, Negro Leagues and Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick just for starters. Last week it added another heavyweight in former MLB General Manager Dave Dombrowski. He helped guide two different teams to world championships, most recently the Boston Red Sox.
The group will present an official expansion proposal to MLB at the 2021 Winter Meetings that will be held here in Nashville. While MLB eventually plans to expand to 32 teams, no one’s saying it will happen overnight. The group’s plans include building a 42,000-seat stadium in honor of Jackie Robinson. Contrary to what’s being floated by those opposed to the idea, the stadium will be built with private funds as part of a surrounding mixed-use family sports and entertainment district.
Stewart has long been outspoken about MLB’s lack of opportunity and diversity in management positions, and particularly in off-the-field slots. The sport currently has Derek Jeter with a stake in the Miami Marlins, and Magic Johnson had a similar one in the Los Angeles Dodgers. But what’s being proposed with the Music City Baseball group goes much further.
“They (MLB) should open the doors to Black ownership, diverse ownership,” Stewart told USA Today last week. “This is the time for baseball to do something they’ve never done. For what this country is going through, and what baseball is going through, there will be a residual effect. This is history.”
“This is real,” he added. “And now is the time.” Events in the next few weeks and months ahead will tell the story of whether MLB heeds Stewart and the Music City Baseball group’s message.