True, most of the names associated with the effort are big in the baseball world, like Dave Dombrowski, Tony LaRussa and Dave Stewart, but the inclusion of Memphis native Justin Timberlake adds some glamour to an effort that could use a little sizzle. Baseball and celebrities are closely intertwined in Nashville, dating back to the days when Larry Schmittou enlisted the likes of Conway Twitty and Jerry Reed to bring the Nashville Sounds into the Southern League. (Mark McCarter lays out the details of the Sounds origins in Never a Bad Game: Fifty-Plus Years of the Southern League.) Sports and entertainers are closely intertwined in the Music City.
“I am thrilled to be involved in the movement to bring Major League Baseball to the great state of Tennessee,” Timberlake said in a press release. “I believe in Music City Baseball’s vision of linking baseball and music in a unique way to unite and entertain people and I am excited to help generate awareness throughout the community as we share our vision for bringing MLB to Music City.”
The Timberlake participation will inevitably lead to speculation on when MLB will expand to 32 teams. For many within the industry, it’s inevitable: MLB officials have hinted that expansion could come soon after the MLB/MiLB realignment happens, and for MLB teams suffering through a miserable 2020, expansion fees can’t come fast enough. The official line is that there won’t be talk of expansion until the Tampa Bay and Oakland ballpark situations are addressed — and while the pandemic has impacted the economy as a whole, it has had a lesser effect in the credit and development worlds. But public participation in any new ballpark plan will be a contested issue in Nashville, to be sure: there was plenty of public debate on a plan for a new MLS soccer stadium at the Fairgrounds site, with public financing of debt on the project to be paid back by Nashville SC owners. Still, the Stars have been working hard on the PR front before the more contentious issue of ballpark financing comes down the road.
Nashville’s major sports scene currently includes the NHL’s Predators, the NFL’s Titans and MLS’s Nashville SC. The market is currently home to a successful Minor League Baseball franchise in the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), and all indications have been that the club’s First Horizon Park cannot be expanded to meet MLB standards.
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