New, Famous Faces for Missions as Baseball Team Moves to Triple-A

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San Antonio Missions President Burl Yarbrough outlines the changes to the facilities as the organization welcomes its first AAA ball club.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

San Antonio Missions President Burl Yarbrough outlines changes to facilities as the team moves up to Triple-A.

During the winter, the San Antonio Missions completed the jump to the highest level of minor league baseball, embraced their new affiliation with the Milwaukee Brewers, and invested approximately $1.3 million of team and taxpayer money in stadium upgrades.

The Missions will open their first season in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League on April 4 in Oklahoma City for a five-game series. The first home stand is a three-game series beginning April 9 against the Memphis Redbirds, followed by four games against the Nashville Sounds.

When fans walk through the gates into Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium, they won’t see many changes from when they last left the place in September following the final out in the Missions’ final season in Double-A and their swan song in the Texas League, where the team had played – aside from a few short breaks – since 1888.

The batting cages and team clubhouses in the 25-year-old stadium were expanded to bring them more in line with what is expected at the Triple-A level. More than $400,000 was spent on cement waterproof coating to prevent water from leaking down through the stands into the clubhouse and training facilities beneath.

Updated batting cages are included with the improvements for players and coaches at Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Updated batting cages are included with the improvements for players and coaches at Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium.

With the move to Triple-A, the Missions increased ticket prices by $1, and team officials said they have seen a small bump in sales this year compared to the same time late in the offseason last year.

For fans, the biggest change will be a different array of teams affiliated with different major league teams, said Missions President Burl Yarbrough. And some recognizable faces on the field.

For instance, fans of the Chicago Cubs will be able to see the team’s Triple-A affiliate, the Iowa Cubs, play in San Antonio eight times this season. Yarbrough said he has been with the Missions for 32 years and never seen a Cubs affiliate play in San Antonio.

There were eight major league organizations represented in the Texas League. There are 16 represented in the PCL.

“Double-A is a great level of baseball and probably the best in [minor league] baseball,” Yarbrough said. “Triple-A is a different animal. We’re going to have so many players who have major league experience.

The Missions are currently playing at the Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium around 10 miles West of downtown San Antonio.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Fans attend a Missions game in 2017 at Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium.

“I think for our fans there is going to be a lot more player name recognition than we’ve ever had in the past.”

The Missions are likely to start the season with at least two players familiar to fans of major league teams. Milwaukee veteran starter Jimmy Nelson is slated to start the year with the Missions as he attempts to return from shoulder reconstruction surgery that sidelined him for the 2018 season. He finished in the top 10 in the National League Cy Young voting in 2017. The Missions also will have relief pitcher Josh Fields on the roster. He was a part of the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen the past two years, playing in consecutive World Series.

Yarbrough told the Rivard Report that Elmore Sports Group, which owns the Missions, continues to make its case for a new stadium with local government and business leaders.

The team has looked at more than 20 possible sites around San Antonio over the past three years, but some are no longer available. Yarbrough said a new stadium would require between 5 and 8 acres.

The Missions would like to follow the example of numerous major and minor league teams around the country and build a new downtown stadium. Triple-A teams in El Paso, Nashville, and Charlotte play in downtown  stadiums built within the past five years.

Nashville Tennessee is home of the AAA affiliate Sounds, farm team to the Texas Rangers.

Courtesy / Apple Maps

Nashville is home of the Triple-A Sounds, farm team to the Texas Rangers.

Wolff Stadium, which opened in 1994, is located about 8 miles west of downtown. Yarbrough said a more central location near other amenities such as restaurants and bars in a downtown environment would bring more people to the ballpark and would allow the Missions to tap into San Antonio’s tourism economy more effectively.

“We continually push and continue to try to get something pulled together, but we haven’t got to that point yet,” Yarbrough said. “It’s something we still want to see happen, and it’s going to need to happen at some point, but we aren’t close at this point to having anything done.”

4 thoughts on “New, Famous Faces for Missions as Baseball Team Moves to Triple-A

  1. A downtown ballpark would be a tremendous asset for San Antonio. I thought the main reason it’s not happening is that Elmore (the Missions owner) refuses to put any of his own money into a new stadium. He wants the City/County to pay the entire cost of a new stadium. And at least thus far, the City/County haven’t been suckered into it. Kyle, is that accurate?

    • A few years ago, Mr. Elmore said his organization would contribute to funding the stadium but it wasn’t in a position to build it itself. So, yes, the City and County would need to be involved, but would likely end up owning a facility that would be much more attractive to hosting events beyond baseball. If it was designed right, you could have meetings, smaller conferences and events there. Concerts? You could put a brewery or restaurant and retail spaces at the stadium bringing people there year round when there is no baseball. It could be very cool. Just takes some creativity and forward thinking.

  2. The only constant is change and yet we may be so accustomed to an entity, practice, or face that the change can be painful.

    Although a baseball fan for much of my life, I grew up in Corpus Christi and the occasions to attend a Missions game were limited to vacations when my dad was free to take me. I see moments still in my mind’s eye decades later and feel my father’s absence deeply, although he’s been gone for a long time.

    The Missions at the time played right off Steves and Roosevelt and I can still visualize the stadium with a shimmering aura of Kostner’s Field of Dreams.

    The change that impacts me most is the Missions’ move away from the Texas League, after more than a century. Obviously it won’t be the same, but then that is progress…I guess.

  3. Has Elmore ever committed to anything specific? Or just a vague statement that he’ll contribute somehow? I think Amarillo paid the entire cost of their new stadium.

    Nirenberg has said publicly, several times, that he’s not interested in spending taxpayer dollars to build a new Missions stadium. That’s the right thing for Nirenberg to say, even if he is open to using tax dollars, until Elmore brings him a viable plan with a reasonable ask of the City.

    I can’t imagine a downtown stadium gets built unless the Missions get new ownership that is willing to significantly contribute to the cost of a stadium. Which is a shame, because a downtown stadium would be great. But it’s not a lack of creativity and forward thinking that’s stopping a downtown stadium – it’s the question of who will pick up the $100 million tab.

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