There was a time that minor league sports, baseball in particular, was at the heart of the American dream.
Watch “Field of Dreams” and you will know everything you need to know.
However, these days, non-affiliated minor league sports do not work.
They don’t work in Mississippi, ever.
To think there is a group of people, today, wanting to start a minor league women’s basketball league with a team in Mississippi is stupid.
It’s insane, actually, to try the same thing over and over and expect a different result each time.
Can you name one minor league sports team in Mississippi, not affiliated to a major league (i.e. Major League Baseball, NBA, NFL, NHL) organization to succeed in the last — let’s say — 100 years?
Here is a partial list of the caucuses from the last 15 years:
Minor league hockey has come and gone — twice — in Tupelo.
Minor league hockey has come and gone — twice — in Biloxi.
Minor league hockey has come and gone in Jackson.
Minor league hockey has come and gone in Southaven.
Minor league football has come and gone — twice— in Tupelo.
Minor league baseball has come and gone in Tupelo (twice), Greenville, Meridian (twice), Booneville, Jackson (twice), Hattiesburg.
Minor league basketball has come and gone in Jackson, Tupelo, Greenville, Southaven, Hattiesburg, Biloxi and Meridian.
There is not one minor league sports team open for business today in Mississippi, except for the Mississippi Braves, which is a Double-A affiliate of the MLB Atlanta Braves.
But, Mississippians have been ready to jump at the chance that minor league baseball could harness energy and spending in their communities. The problem is almost all were dealing with independent leagues and mostly questionable business folks, who promised the stars and spun a good yarn, but, in most cases, never produced any kind of substantial business plan.
Tupelo spent thousands to upgrade a local Dixie Youth field to accommodate nearly 3,000 fans for the Tupelo Tornado. The Tornado were members of the Big South League for one full season in 1997. In ‘98 the Big South fell apart, the Tornadoes joined the Heartland League, but a few weeks in the team couldn’t pay its players.
The dream was dead.
That same scenario played out with city spending in many other towns, like Hattiesburg, Meridian and Greenville.
Somehow, however, through seven mosquito-filled summer nights in the Delta, the Greenville Bluesmen managed to draw crowds and keep a team going in the Big South and then the Texas-Louisiana League.
Through every one of the last 15 years, and even before, Gulf Coast native and former Jackson Met (circa 1984) Barry Lyons has been fighting to bring an affiliated, preferably Southern League franchise to his home. He says he has been close a couple of times, including just before Hurricane Katrina, but to no avail.
The only thing that unaffiliated minor league teams succeed at is draining small towns of precious funds that could be used for more important things than pumping up the egos of self-centered con artists.
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