This season is a whole new ballgame for the San Antonio Missions. For the first time since their 1892 beginnings they’re a Triple-A club, out of the Texas League and into the Pacific Coast League, now sporting a Milwaukee Brewers major-league affiliation.
In fact, they’re an entirely different product – the result of a not-so-minor switch around by franchise owner Dave Elmore, who brought his Triple-A Sky Sox from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to San Antonio’s Wolff Stadium, where they assumed the historic Missions moniker. Elmore relocated the Double-A squad formerly known as the Missions to Amarillo this year, with the whimsical new name Sod Poodles.
It’s a good deal for San Antonio in baseball standings, because for farm teams Triple-A is the closest thing to the majors. Many of these prospects are in high-level tryouts for a call-up to the bigs, alongside a few major leaguers rehabbing an injury or trying to overcome a bad slump. Few will move up to “The Show.”
I saw my first Triple-A game at the Wolff in early May. It was a perfect night, with a clear sky and golden light bathing the manicured field. Although the Round Rock Express creamed the home team, it didn’t seem to bother the fans, who had a blast.
There’s nothing more American than mom, apple pie and baseball. Oh, and capitalism. Even minor-league sports involve major money. Forbes magazine pegged the average value of the top 20 farm teams at $37.5 million in 2016, and that ain’t hay. While the Missions aren’t on that exalted list, they’re still big business, despite the games’ homey feel. And, nothing would boost the team’s bottom line like a spiffy new stadium downtown.
Remember a few years back, when then-Mayor Ivy Taylor and Elmore announced a push to up the city’s game with Triple-A baseball and a new downtown ballpark? We got the team, but the stadium plan reeled around and struck out. Now, the Elmore Sports Group could be warming up for another pitch.
Elmore’s chance to play hardball for a fresh stadium is weaker now, since the team is already here, especially given the major-league cost to build it — probably a minimum of $75 million.
The Wolff is neither the oldest nor smallest home of a Triple-A affiliate, though it’s on the low end for both. However, neither the city nor county appears interested in building a replacement.
“Of course (the Elmore Sports Group) would like a new stadium,” Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff told me. “But, Wolff Stadium was built with the idea that you could easily add 2,000 seats for a Triple-A team. … Sure, Dave Elmore would like something downtown, but so would everybody.”
Besides, in the years since the downtown plan was hatched many sites were developed.
Personally, I love the cozy, budget-friendly ambience of a ballgame at the Wolff, especially most Saturdays, as fireworks end the evening, or Thursdays, when the Missions transform into the Flying Chanclas. (The part-time nom de béisbol was developed in a successful effort to draw more Latinos.)
For me, win or lose, Double-A or Triple-A, there’s something magical about a baseball game, and the old familiar Wolff, way out on the prairies of U.S. 90, is part of the “Field of Dreams” atmosphere.
So, welcome to our new, Triple-A home team. I’ll be out there rooting for you.
I’m just grateful you’re not named the Sod Poodles.