Two Lou Schwechheimer stories in two days! Today’s news: the former Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) co-owner was introduced as a new owner of the New Orleans Zephyrs (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League).
Schwechheimer and investors purchased 50 percent of the Zephyrs from veteran MiLB owner/operator Don Beaver, who had the team on the market for over a year. Several potential owners took a look at the team — including Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, who was reportedly considering a move of the franchise to the Houston suburbs — but in the end Schwechheimer and his investors (under the Caribbean Baseball Initiative umbrella) closed on the deal. We had hinted at the ownership change back in October. Add to this the purchase of Ripken Baseball’s 90 percent share of the Charlotte Stone Crabs (High A; Florida State League) and you have the foundation of an organization. From the New Orleans Advocate:
Schwechheimer, announced Monday as manager and controller of a company that has bought 50 percent of the New Orleans Zephyrs, said that type of diligence, dedication and now experience will be used to turn around this city’s Triple-A team.
The Z’s have languished near the bottom of the Pacific Coast League in attendance for years. Schwechheimer will run the franchise.
“I promise you (Zephyr Field) will come alive,” said Schwechheimer, who was chosen Minor League Executive of the Year seven times. “We’re about building a dream factory … for the players who are coming up through (to the Miami Marlins) and a dream factory for this community to sink your teeth in and support.”
One thing we found fascinating: Schwechheimer has been working for years on a plan to bring baseball on some level to Cuba, and now he’s involved with two MiLB teams affiliated with the two teams — Miami and Tampa Bay — who have shown the greatest interest in tapping Cuba in some way. The Rays won the commissioner’s lottery to play a 2016 spring-training game in Cuba, and the Marlins management clearly sees the franchise as a gateway to Latin America. While we don’t think there’s a strong change of MiLB setting up shop in Havana any time soon, there’s clearly a strategy here — and it will be fascinating to see it unfold.