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Big League Weekend in the Alamodome: A Precursor?

Texas Rangers Alamodome

Major League Baseball returns to San Antonio this weekend, as the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros face off at the Alamodome in a series that inevitably brings up a discussion of the city’s suitability to host MLB in the future.

Big League Weekend is the annual Texas Rangers exhibition series in San Antonio, and by all accounts it’s a tremendous success at the box office. Now, the Alamodome isn’t exactly the most baseball-friendly venue — as you can see from the photo above, it’s a classic case of shoehorning a diamond onto a football gridiron, a time-honored tradition employed in venues like the Los Angeles Coliseum and the Metrodome — but if an MLB team does end up in San Antonio, the Alamodome will surely be pressed into play as a temporary facility.

Now, during discussions with MLB folks about potential markets, Montreal and San Antonio always top the list; Montreal because it’s regarded as a very good market, and San Antonio because there’s a potential ownership group in place. (More on that in a sec.) San Antonio isn’t the largest of markets — about the same size as Kansas City, a little larger than Milwaukee and Cincinnati — but that ranking is boosted with the inclusion of nearby Austin. Combined, the market size would be a little larger than Minneapolis-St. Paul or San Diego, at roughly 2.6 million.

Austin, of course, is where Ryan-Sanders Baseball owns the Round Rock Express (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). And the Big League Weekend series is put on annually by Ryan-Sanders Baseball. It’s not hard to see a scenario where MLB in San Antonio launches with play at the Alamodome and an expanded Dell Diamond.

For now, San Antonio residents will need to be content with the Big League Weekend. From the San Antonio Express-News:

Despite my skepticism, both Ryans assured me that Major League Baseball continues to monitor the crowds that show up at these games.

Four years ago, after the inaugural two-game series, then-commissioner Bud Selig called to gauge the city’s turnout and reaction, Nolan Ryan said.

I tried in vain to sweat either Ryan for anything resembling a semi-commitment. Both told me that, while possible MLB expansion to San Antonio isn’t in the foreseeable future, it remains an open discussion.

Photo by Kelly Gavin, courtesy Texas Rangers.

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