Baseball on the ballot
Professional baseball isn’t being played in Richmond this summer. Those who follow local news to do with baseball know that it’s likely a Double A team, which is currently situated in Connecticut, is heading here next year. Surely, that’s good news to Little Leaguers in the metro area. The last time Richmonders didn’t have a local team […]
Professional baseball isn’t being played in Richmond this summer. Those who follow local news to do with baseball know that it’s likely a Double A team, which is currently situated in Connecticut, is heading here next year.
Surely, that’s good news to Little Leaguers in the metro area.
The last time Richmonders didn’t have a local team to pull for was 1965. That was the year between the Richmond Virginians’ departure for Toledo and the arrival of the Richmond Braves. In 1966, the R-Braves took what had been the Atlanta Crackers’ slot in the International League, because the Milwaukee Braves relocated to Atlanta.
This time around the process of putting a minor league team on the field has been more complicated than it was in 1966. Now we can see Richmond’s baseball fans got lucky then. Now the minor leagues are more structured and there are fewer franchises in existence. And, 43 years ago there was no argument about where the baseball field ought to be.
The pair of seats above was acquired at the last game played at Parker Field in 1984. With the help of my then-girlfriend, Tana, we literally ripped them up from their platform. The authorities actually allowed/encouraged it. A few days later the old grandstands were torn down.
Over the last decade a number of proposals have surfaced that would have moved professional baseball to other parts of town, even to the suburbs. No need to rehash all that.
In 2009 the matter seems to have boiled down to two distinct options in different parts of town:
- Refurbish The Diamond/or build a stadium nearby
- Build a new stadium in Shockoe Bottom
After years of presentations and studies and quibbling it has come down to a choice between keeping baseball on the Boulevard, or moving baseball to Shockoe Bottom.
Yet, after watching the Braves leave town, at least somewhat out of frustration with Richmond’s squirrelly moves, our City Council is still struggling with what to do. They don’t want to be wrong.
Mayor Dwight Jones doesn’t want to be wrong, either. So Jones wants to continue to study the matter. Now it seems we’ve descended into studying studies.
For several months the local blogosphere has been bubbling with posts and comments supporting one location or another. Both sides, Boulevard and Bottom, have Facebook pages and have sought mightily to influence the general public’s view on the issue. Where to play baseball has become a political issue of such magnitude that it’s time for something to break the spell.
Well, at the Fan District Hub, we have a solution — it’s called democracy.
Although it’s not easy in Virginia, it is possible to have the voters weigh in where elected officials fear to tread.
It took studies and a campaign and eventually a citywide referendum, in 2003, to get rid of the old weak-mayor system in Richmond. Now voters in Richmond elect their mayor directly. Put plainly, Richmonders opted for pure democracy, without modifiers, when they got the chance.
Once the General Assembly saw the eye-popping results, which overwhelmingly called for the change, Richmond’s City Charter was amended. Mayor Jones, who once opposed that same change, now seems OK with it, too.
It says here, the question of where to play baseball should be put before the voters in much the same way. A non-binding resolution could be placed on the ballot in November.
Obviously, prudent Virginians don’t want a string of frivolous ballot issues to clutter up every election. But sometimes the only way to settle something is to let the people decide.
City Registrar Kirk Showalter tells me there’s not much real extra expense to the taxpayers to run such a referendum, when there‘s already an election taking place.
In my view, the voters of Richmond will turn out in droves to put the kibosh on the plan to build in Shockoe Bottom. But maybe I’m wrong. Either way, putting it on the ballot will provide political cover for Jones and other elected officials.
Maybe I’m out of touch with how it is today. I’ve certainly been told as much by supporters of Shockoe Bottom’s baseball fever. Maybe their campaign to win support has been so successful that they could win such a test at the ballot box.
Of course, dear reader, some of the most ardent supporters of the proposed Shockoe Bottom real estate project may be afraid to take a chance on democracy. Some might say the ordinary guy is too dim to know what’s best. And, if they do, I’ll be willing to take my chances with how their asserting that position will play with John Q. Public, too.
If public money is to be used to facilitate or leverage the building of a new baseball stadium in Richmond, it’s entirely proper to ask the voters where they want their money spent.
In the way of disclosure, I must admit that I’ve been a baseball fan since before I played my first season of Little League, 50 years ago. What’s left in my bank of memories includes some scenes at Parker Field, where I saw Satchel Paige pitch and Mickey Mantle hit.
Bottom Line: How about some 100 proof democracy … neat, with no chaser?
– Words and photo by F.T. Rea
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