It started with a love for America’s pastime but it’s grown into a national story. Is Raleigh ready for a Major League Baseball team? Many residents think so.
When MLB commissioner Rob Manfred went on the record about the league considering plans to expand from 30 to 32 teams, Raleigh resident Lou Pascucci and a group of friends asked themselves, “At what point could this happen in Raleigh?”
Since that initial conversation, Pascucci and other advocates compared statistics from other viable cities and found that Raleigh is holding its own in terms of population, television market and income.
“Once we had that data, a lot of us who work as designers and in tech decided to put together a website and show it to people and explain the numbers,” Pascucci says of mlbraleigh.com. “Every single person we brought this to said, ‘I love this, how can I be a part of this?’ We teamed up with a lot of the city and said, ‘Let’s do this completely grassroots.’ If someone with a ton of money wanted a baseball team here, we’d already have one.”
The Triangle’s population is in line with other markets that have MLB teams, such as Kansas City, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, all of which have other professional sports teams as well. As for whether Raleigh can support professional hockey as well as baseball and, potentially, professional soccer, Pascucci says he’s not worried.
“If you look at some of the markets that we compare to, like Pittsburgh, they have three major league sports and they’re supporting all of them,” he says. “The Triangle fits right in.”
The Raleigh/Durham television market makes for another argument in the MLB advocates’ favor. It’s the largest market in the nation without a locally or regionally broadcasted MLB team. That, coupled with the fact that Raleigh is the richest metro area in the continental U.S. without an MLB team located within 100 miles, means there’s a strong market here for Major League Baseball to tap into.
MLB Raleigh has been gaining traction at an exponential rate since the website’s launch last month.
“We launched from zero and it’s been crazy,” Pascucci says. “It really spread nationally right off the bat. We thought we ordered enough merchandise to get us through a month or two and we sold out in the first 48 hours.”
And, so far, it has all been through the power of a grassroots campaign rather than a big-money backer.
“It’s about reaching out to people like Trophy and Videri and giving them the pennants to put up in their place,” says Jed Gant, an unofficial MLB Raleigh community advocate. “You get a piece of the movement while we’re building something. We’re going business to business and pounding the pavement and reaching out to people who are interested in it and starting a conversation.”
MLB Raleigh has partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of Raleigh and is donating a portion of its profits from merchandise and upcoming events. It’s a partnership the organizers hope will help revitalize the club’s baseball field in east Raleigh and grow its youth baseball program.
“This cannot be a profit grab for anyone,” Pascucci says. “Anything we make will go back to the Boys & Girls Club of Raleigh. If it fails and doesn’t happen, at least we fixed up our community.”
Support MLB Raleigh and the Boys and Girls Club on Saturday, April 13 from 1-4 p.m. at Trophy Maywood. For more information, visit mlbraleigh.com ■
Potential Stadium Locations
• The Southern Gateway (bordered by MLK Boulevard, McDowell and Salisbury streets)
• The old Cargill Mill site (between S Wilmington Street and Hammond Road)
• The current Central Prison site (located off of Western Boulevard)
• The Penmarc land (at the I-40 junction off of South Saunders Street and Penmarc Drive)
“The stadium situation is fun to talk about, but the ideas are just conversation starters,” Pascucci says.