The York Sunday News will feature a story on Atlantic League expansion, and the fact that discussions are underway to bring an expansion team from the Houston suburbs to a league anchored in the Northeast.
At first glance the idea sounds ridiculous. The Atlantic League would become a league where teams fly to certain games. But the more people I talked to, the more realistic it sounded. And I think there will be a strong push to add a Texas team for the 2012 season.
Opening Day Partners and Peter Kirk are in the midst of a 90-day exclusive bargaining period with the city of Sugar Land, Texas. Sugar Land is a suburb of Houston and a growing community, jumping in population from about 16,000 people in 1986 to about 85,000 this year.
The American Association, an independent league with three teams in Texas, would be a logical fit for Sugar Land. But the American Association commissioner, Miles Wolff, expects Sugar Land to join the Atlantic League.
Wolff is regarded as a genius by many in minor league baseball.
He served as publisher of Baseball America for almost 20 years. He owned the Durham Bulls before the Kevin Costner movie “Bull Durham” made the team a household name across the country. He’s owned numerous minor league franchises. He is the commish of the American Association and Can-Am League. And he helped kick-start independent baseball in the 1990s.
He believes Sugar Land will end up playing in the Atlantic League.
So the big question for the Atlantic League and its board of directors is: If a team in Houston joins the league, will travel expenses hurt or threaten to kill this league?
Kirk thinks the league can survive. Moreover, he hopes Sugar Land is the first of four teams in a new Atlantic League West Division.
Three more teams?
Why not ask for the moon while he’s at it, right?
But Kirk is a progressive thinker and probably one of the big reasons the Atlantic League has thrived. His company, Opening Day Partners, planted three teams since 2005. If anyone can do it, he can.
“Peter Kirk is probably one of the best (at building teams),” Wolff said. “He’s been amazing.”
And right now, he apparently sees big markets for the Atlantic League in Texas.
Do you think a Houston team will work in the Atlantic League?
Well, it looks like we might find out.