Let’s think big. Really big.
The start of independent league baseball in Sugar Land is certainly reason enough for area fans to rejoice. The game will bring a brand of ball to one Houston suburb that will mostly compliment and generate interest in the major league game going on downtown with the Astros. There may be a few lost Astros fans as a result of the closer-to-home, cheaper tickets, freshly branded product of family focused baseball in Sugar Land, but I think we all know that any big downturn at the Astros turnstiles this season will not be the fault of the Skeeters’ new hatch in the former rice and sugar cane fields south of town. The real reason? The big league Astros are a losing, while rebuilding, young club and not a serious choice to compete in the World Series any time soon. Attendance there will improve as the club’s performance and chances for winning improve, even as they move to the American League next year that is so dreaded by so many National League fans. Even the American League move will not stop the fans for supporting a winner. It’s how the mass of Houston sports fans are. Build a winner and they will come.
So, what about building a winning business plan on multiply tiered levels? Here’s what I mean:
One of the big expenses in professional baseball is maintaining a layered performance level graded farm team system that works to prepare new players for the big league team in a way that also makes players reasonably available for call up to the big team by moves that are quick, efficient, and economical.
Now think local.
What if the Astros eventually hooked up with the Sugar Land Skeeters and made them their AAA farm team by some kind of working agreement with their ownership? Astros fans could then grab extensive looks at parts of the big club’s future by traveling to Skeeters games as fewer do now to AA Hooks games in Corpus Christi and once did to AAA Round Rock near Austin. I doubt that many Houston area Astros fans are going to AAA Oklahoma City games now that the Red Hawks are the Astros club. It’s just too far.
In my opinion, putting the AAA farm club in Sugar Land eventually could expand, not contract, attendance in both venues and make call ups no more than a local cab or personal car, 30-minute drive away. The call ups could also result in a fan call up of those who followed these players to see how they performed at the big league level.
The key is getting the baseball decision makers on both clubs to see that their connectivity is the key to successful potentiated growth.
Now let’s push the envelope about as far as it may shove on this plane.
Let’s say the Astros and Skeeters eventually get together and run both their cups over through an important big league-aaa club working agreement. Why not then go north of Houston to those suburbs and look into starting a similar lower level AA minor league operation in someplace like The Woodlands, Kingwood, or Montgomery County?
If that works, a good prospect could work his way through the top two levels of minor league play to the Astros and do it all in the Houston Metro Area as he drag-lined a collection of new fans that already had seen him play in person by the time he broke in with the Astros, bringing his new personal fan base with him.
We need to see how the Skeeters operation goes first, of course. I’m not talking about “putting the cart before the horse here.” I am saying, about as strongly I know how, that how we see the launching of the new baseball operation is key to there being future options. If both the Astros and Skeeters stay open to the future mining of opportunity, it could help the kind of growth possibility that is best for both clubs through something better than we have now. That is, a larger plan for baseball in the Greater Houston area.
One other thing. On some other subtle level, this may be the most important point I hope to make.
If you are on the Internet (and you really need to be these days to see where marketing and merchandising is going) you know that high-tech sales over Amazon have practically been the single cause for driving Best Buy out of business. Consumers today would rather buy a digital camera online at 2:43 AM than wait until the stores open and drive to Best Buy for it.
The lesson? Immediacy is taking over as a driver in consumer purchases because of the Internet. Having a major league club and its top two minor league farm teams located in the same geographic area could make baseball immediately available somewhere just about any day in the baseball season. Fans following three clubs personally in real-time would be the equivalent of the Internet user having three windows open at the same time on the same subject. Instead of having Baseball Almanac, Baseball Reference, and Retrosheet open on the computer to study the career of Craig Biggio, Houston fans could be “bricks and mortar” open to the Houston Astros, the Sugar Land Skeeters, and the Woodlands Woodies in their ignited fan support of Houston baseball.
Think big. It only hurts for a little while. Then your head bursts and you find yourself awakening in a brave new world. – Hold onto your ticket stub when you get there too. It’s proof you paid your way to the dance. You did it by having the courage to think big.