LaGrave Field hosted the minor-league Fort Worth Cats beginning in 1926, serving as a long-time home to a Brooklyn Dodgers affiliate. (At the end, it was a Chicago Cubs farm team, as the Cats and the ballpark were traded as part of the deal that gave the Dodgers the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field.) The Cubs over time lost interest in Fort Worth and sold the team and the ballpark, and by 1964 the Cats were gone, moved to a new ballpark on the turnpike that eventually became home to the Texas Rangers. The ballpark, forgotten and unused, was torn down in 1967.
Or, rather, mostly torn down. There were still elements of the old ballpark on the site, such as the original dugouts, and they became part of the revived LaGrave Field in 2002. The revived Cats did well in the independent American Association, but the costs of running the team and original renovation costs caught up with owner Carl Bell, who defaulted on $30 million in notes used to buy the property and build the ballpark. It was eventually acquired by Fort Worth Stadium Group LLC, owned by Houston developer Andrew Schatte.
Schatte has not worked to put any baseball into LaGrave Field and instead let the property deteriorate. From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
The ballpark’s old-fashioned center-field scoreboard is covered with graffiti. Billboards shredded by wind and rain now dangle from their supports. Parts of the outfield wall have been kicked in. The once-pristine grass playing surface is now a patchwork of dirt and weeds. Electrical boxes have been pried open, and their copper wiring ripped out by thieves….
Area political leaders who have for years fought behind the scenes to preserve LaGrave Field — and perhaps even find a new owner for the ballpark and a team to play on its field — are now dealing with the reality that the ballpark may instead end up being demolished.
“I don’t think we’re anywhere close to seeing baseball again at LaGrave Field,” said Dennis Shingleton, a Fort Worth councilman. Shingleton also is board president of the Fort Worth Sports Authority, an arm of local government that owns the rights to the names LaGrave Field and Fort Worth Cats but doesn’t own the ballpark itself.
“It won’t be this summer, I’ll tell you that,” Shingleton said. “It may be next summer, but it will take an influx of several million dollars worth of money and time to get LaGrave Field back in playing order.”
There has been interest in LaGrave Field, such as a pitch from the independent Atlantic League to place a team there in 2013. But those were different times with different players, and with an independent American Association team opening this summer in nearby Cleburne, the future of LaGrave Field may be as a location for redevelopment, not baseball.