In 2018, a Mexican League team will take the field on both sides of the United States-Mexico border.
Tecolotes Dos Laredos (Owls of the Two Laredos) are slated to split their home schedule between the sister cities of Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. (The two municipalities are separated by the Rio Grande River.) The news became official on Nov. 20 after the Laredo City Council approved a five-year agreement allowing the team to play at Uni-Trade Stadium. This approximately 6,000-capacity facility most recently hosted the Laredo Lemurs, an independent American Association franchise that operated from 2012-2016.
Tecolotes Dos Laredos will play 35 home games at Uni-Trade Stadium, with approximately 20 more at Nuevo Laredo's Ciudad Deportiva sports complex. The Mexican League, part of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, is classified at the Triple-A level of the Minors, although its 16 teams aren't affiliated with Major League Baseball.
Tecolotes are a new Mexican League club, having relocated from the city of Veracruz following the 2017 season. The team name is an homage to the region's baseball history -- the franchise Tecolotes de Nuevo Laredo was founded in 1940 and operated through 2003. Even the Dos Laredos scenario has precedent as 1985 marked the first of several seasons in which the team split its time between Nuevo Laredo and Laredo, Texas.
The Tecolotes Dos Laredos ownership group, 2L4L Baseball LLC, is headed by veteran Mexican Baseball League executive Jose Antonio Mansur Galan. On Nov. 21, following Laredo City Council's decision to allow the team to play at Uni-Trade Stadium, Mansur Galan expressed his delight with the outcome.
"We can be proud, happy and very motivated that we can be in two important cities," he said on LMTonline.com. "These are two cities, two countries, two languages and possibly two cultures, but one passion: baseball. And the passion for Tecolotes will unite the two cities."
The Mexican League, known in Spanish as Liga Mexicana De Beisbol, has not yet announced its 2018 schedule. The league plays 110 regular-season games, beginning in late March and running through mid-August.
From Mobile to Madison?
On Nov. 7, the sale of the Southern League's Mobile BayBears to ownership group Ballcorps LLC became official. The next day, Madison, Alabama announced it was exploring an opportunity to build a multi-use venue that could bring a Minor League team to the city.
Offseason MiLB include
That team would be the BayBears, of course, who play in Hank Aaron Stadium -- the Southern League's oldest ballpark -- and have perennially ranked last in the league in attendance. Madison is located in the greater Huntsville area, which previously hosted Minor League Baseball in the form of the Huntsville Stars. The Stars relocated to Biloxi following the 2014 campaign after years of declining attendance at dilapidated Joe Davis Stadium.
Despite the fate of the Stars, new BayBears owner Ralph Nelson feels Madison is an ideal fit for his recently purchased club.
"We love the demographics here. We love the economy here. We love the enthusiasm of the folks we have met with here. There's a very attractive site in Madison that we like quite a bit," Nelson said on local TV station WAAY 31.
The site to which Nelson is referring is "Town Madison," with a proposed ballpark serving as a key component of a larger mixed use development area.
Cashing in, in Syracuse
The sale of the Syracuse Chiefs to the New York Mets is official, thus ending the International League club's long tenure as a community-owned franchise. On Nov. 17, the team's shareholders voted to approve the sale. A two-thirds majority was needed for the sale to go through, and 88 percent voted in favor.
Team shares, offered in 1961 and again in 1967, were sold at a price of $10 each. This proved to be a great investment. The Triple-A Chiefs were purchased by the Mets for $18 million, and each of the approximately 12,000 shares of the team are worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,300.
As part of the Chiefs' sale agreement, the Mets are committed to remain in Syracuse through at least the 2025 season (the duration of the current lease at the team's home of NBT Bank Ballpark). The Mets won't take over as the parent club until 2019, however. The 2018 season will be an anomalous one as the Chiefs continue on as a Washington Nationals affiliate. The Mets, meanwhile, will keep their Triple-A team in Las Vegas.
Speaking to WTOP.com, International League president Randy Mobley acknowledged it was an "out of the ordinary" situation, adding that "from my perspective, there is no concern." Chiefs general manager Jason Smorol concurred, writing that "our approach does not change."