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All good things: Time to bid farewell

It seems appropriate this Opening Day to announce a big change in the future of Ballpark Digest: twenty-some years after launching this site and August Publications, I’m retiring early and focusing instead on family.

Coverage of the business of baseball, especially on the Minor League side, will wind down. Between the entrance of private equity and the homogenization of the industry, there’s not a lot of fun and excitement in MiLB anymore. (Interestingly, there is a lot of fun and excitement on the MLB level, and that’s where our limited efforts will be centered.) Life is too short to run yet another story about private equity taking over another licensee, and running a media company in 2024 is hard enough if you can’t summon the requisite enthusiasm for the field.

Let’s face it: it’s a good time to walk away, as there’s really not much of an industry left to cover in Ballpark Digest. One of the best things St. Pete overlords did was foster an MiLB industry, with information shared among owners and showing a relatively high level of support for vendors. There is no MiLB industry anymore. Really, it’s all about the merch, as we see alternative identities run amuck. Really? Some working-class family in Altoona wants to spend their hard-earned dollars to see their local lads play as the Malmo Oat Milkers? I think not.

So it’s a good time to walk away. I’ll still be updating this site, but no guarantees. Not quite sure if I’ll sell Ballpark Digest or hang onto it; certainly would listen to any serious offers. And I don’t plan on dropping writing altogether: This site started more as coverage of ballpark aesthetics than the business of ballparks, and the larger field of architecture and the related field of development still fascinates me. I also have a book or three in the works, including the 2025 edition of The Complete Guide to Spring Training. But this summer will be spent reading and relaxing.

Profound thanks go to the visionaries whose dreams for the industry led to waves of innovations in the art of raising the fan experience: the current MiLB overlords may not grasp how influential and groundbreaking the industry was over the last 25 years. Dave Heller is the very model of what MiLB should want in an owner: he’s passionate about pleasing fans, he rallies the community behind his teams, and he makes sure everyone walks away from the ballpark with a smile. Owners and front-office personnel like Jason Freier (who single-handedly raised expectations for what an MiLB ballpark should be), Chuck GreenbergMartie CordaroJoe FinleyKurt LandesMarv GoldklangAlan SteinTom DicksonMike VeeckTodd “Parney” ParnellKatie DannemillerConor CaloiaAndy MilovichJeff Eiseman, and Vern Stenman consistently set high bars to offer the best fan experience possible. The likes of Quint StuderCraig Brown and Gary Larder worked tirelessly to bring and keep Minor League Baseball in their communities, often putting their own money and considerable amounts of time behind the efforts. Walking and talking ballparks with talented designers and architects like Bruce Miller, Mo Stein, Craig Schmitt, David Bower, Jonathan Cole, Janet Marie Smith and Mike Sabatini was really the best part of this job. Broadcasters are the unsung heroes of the baseball industry. I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with the talented and ebullient Jesse Goldberg-Strassler on site coverage and books; every team should be lucky enough to have someone like Jesse as the face of the franchise, and I’m excited to watch the likes of Alex CohenMelanie Newman and Emma Tiedemann advance in their careers. (Also excited to see what new project Mick Gillispie is debuting. The man is a force of nature.) There’s a special place in baseball for the pioneers who took a familiar formula and expanded on it: Dick Radatz, Jr., who deserves a lot of credit for inventing the summer-collegiate baseball industry with the Northwoods League, and Jesse Cole, whose Savannah Bananas take an enhanced fan experience to a whole other level. Thanks also go to Steve Resnick and Bruce Miller, whose early support of Ballpark Digest were key in making this more than just a side gig and instead a thriving business, allowing me to retire early.

As for me, I don’t be at a baseball game this Opening Day, but rather visiting graduate schools and museums with my daughter. Where I belong.

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