Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa believes Major League Baseball would succeed in Nashville, and is part of an effort to bring MLB to the city.
La Russa, a former player and Hall of Fame manager, currently works in a front office role with the Boston Red Sox, but is also acting as an advisor to John Loar—a businessman who is exploring the possibility of bringing MLB to Nashville. Along with La Russa, Loar’s slate of advisors include retired MLB pitcher and former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart, Vanderbilt head baseball coach Tim Corbin, and Nashville-based Sony Music executive Steve Hodges.
The group is exploring the viability of Nashville as an MLB market, and La Russa feels strongly that it could succeed. Specifically, he cites what appears to be an increasing inevitability that MLB expands to 32 teams and Nashville’s growing economy that already features the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and NHL’s Nashville Predators. More from the Tennessean:
“We had just always talked about, since I left the Cardinals … that Nashville and what’s happening in that town as far as the growth, the excitement, what’s happening with the football team and the hockey team, it’s a natural for baseball,” La Russa said. “And that’s where we are.
“I’ve been there enough to know what’s happening. Potentially, it’s very exciting. Comparing it to major league baseball cities, it wouldn’t be a stretch.”
La Russa has worked for the MLB office, the Arizona Diamondbacks and currently with the Boston Red Sox in a front-office capacity since retiring as a manager in 2011.
“Ninety-nine percent of my attention, energies and commitment are to the Boston Red Sox,” he said. “But there’s nothing wrong with looking forward because most people believe that expansion is on the horizon.”
Any effort to bring MLB to Nashville would have to be part of a long-term process, as there are plenty of uncertainties at this stage. Though commissioner Rob Manfred has openly expressed interest in expanding to 32 teams, and previously indicated that Nashville is on MLB’s radar, the league has not announced plans for expansion. Additionally, the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays still have unsettled long-term ballpark situations, and neither franchise has shown signs to this point that it is exploring a move. (The A’s are currently pursuing a new ballpark at Oakland’s Howard Terminal, while the Rays are locked into a lease at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field that runs through 2027.)
On the local level, the question will be whether there is support for an MLB team and ballpark in a sports scene that already includes the Titans and Predators, and will add an MLS expansion team next year that is opening its own stadium in 2021. The city is also home to a very successful Minor League Baseball franchise in the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), who have played at First Tennessee Park since its opening in 2015. All indications are that First Tennessee Park cannot be expanded to MLB standards, so in that case any effort to bring MLB to Nashville would require a new ballpark. Those factors mean that there are plenty of uncertainties surrounding MLB to Nashville, but for now it appears that La Russa and the rest of the group are intrigued by what the city could have to offer.