O-Town Yankees? Say It Ain’t So

I expect that in a few years we’ll be ignoring the Orlando Yankees just as we did the Orlando Sun Rays/Cubs/Rays ball teams . . . .

Orlando is the Bermuda Triangle of minor league sports teams. Yet team owners with egos and money keep bringing them here, convinced the result will be different. These owners always tell us that they see a void to fill in the metro Orlando market, then, just like that, they step into the void and, poof, disappear.

The latest attempt to ignore history and therefore likely repeat it involves bringing minor league baseball to Orlando. Again. But this time, we’re told, the result would be different because we would be getting a New York Yankees farm club, and, besides, Orlando needs baseball.

That’s how Orlando businessman Armando Gutierrez was spinning it when he announced in early September his intention of relocating the Single-A Tampa Yankees to Orlando in 2013.

He could pull it off, too, as officials with the New York Yankees and Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty signaled their support for the move. So I expect that in a few years we’ll be ignoring the Orlando Yankees just as we did the Orlando Sun Rays/Cubs/Rays ball teams and a host of other minor league sports ventures.

Crotty said he would be willing to provide county land on I-Drive near the Beachline as a stadium site. Wisely, he didn’t offer any financial help to pay for the stadium, which if built reportedly could include a baseball-themed museum and retail space.

Nice touches, but Gutierrez would have better luck drawing fans to Single-A ball by cutting a baseball diamond out of a cornfield. The problem with that idea, however, is that the corn stalks would wilt in the summer heat along with attendance.

Back in May I wrote a column using a baseball metaphor (“The Mayors Go to Bat”) to describe Crotty’s cautious style as he winds down his final term. I said he was bunting, but his support of a worn-out idea like this one should go down as a strike-out looking.

I found it very interesting, and a bit disheartening, that Crotty was latching onto the past as an initiative while at the same time the city of Orlando was preparing to unveil its giant leap into the future with the Amway Center (our story on it appears on page 42).

Minor league baseball, by any team name, is old Orlando, the little city that couldn’t and wouldn’t think big. We’re not that Orlando anymore.
Call the team the Orange Yankees. No one’s going to notice anyhow.
Speaking of going in the wrong direction, Bill Segal has lost so much ground in his race for Orange County mayor that I’m predicting a landslide victory for his opponent, Teresa Jacobs.

Segal’s poor runner-up showing to Jacobs in the Aug. 24 primary was a wake-up call for him and the special interests funding him that his appeal doesn’t resonate beyond his base of supporters. But a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Segal has turned out to be a worse candidate than the earlier, laid-back version.

He’s become a regular Matt Falconer, who came up with wacky numbers and made even wackier promises in his failed candidacy for mayor. Desperation has moved Segal to float a property tax-cut plan amid falling tax revenues and to attack Jacobs on (wait for it). . . ethics.

Segal bringing up the “E-word” ? If memory serves, Commissioner Segal voted on requests made by a developer with whom he had business ties.

“Hello, pot, kettle calling…”

Bill, don’t even go there. You’re the establishment candidate, the chosen one who would maintain the status quo of how business has always been done: with a wink and a nod, just as you did when you ignored obvious conflicts of interest as a sitting commissioner.

Hear that sound, Bill? It’s the “chattering classes.” On Nov. 2 they’re going to make a lot of noise.

Categories: Column