The Latest on our RoughRiders and MiLB
The Latest on our RoughRiders and MiLB
Any other June and we would be enjoying baseball at Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco. The burning question for my baseball-loving heart is if we’ll see professional baseball in Frisco in 2020. RoughRiders General Manager and President, Andy Milovich, sits down with us to give an update.
Enjoy episode #66 with Andy Milovich and find other episodes of Hustle & Pro.
- [00:30] Quick hits with Andy Milovich
- [02:40] The state of Minor League Baseball
- [05:20] Ownership structure
- [18:13] What we might see at the ballpark in 2020
Resources within this episode:
- RoughRiders: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | RoughRiders on Lifestyle Frisco
- Kelly Walker: Instagram @kelly_walkertexas | Twitter: @kelly_walker_TX
Connect with Lifestyle Frisco:
Welcome to Hustle and Pro season two, talking sports in Frisco from youth to pro. Now here’s your host Kelly Walker.
Welcome to this episode of Hustle and Pro we’re talking to Andy Milovich. He is the president and general manager of the Frisco RoughRiders. Hi Andy.
Hi, how are you?
I’m great. Thanks for coming in the studio. This is great to be able to sit across from you instead of a zoom call, we get to look at each other and have a chat. So I’m an avid RoughRiders fan have been for, I don’t know. I think we’re in eight year, year, eight of maybe season tickets. So RoughRiders are my team. And so I’m anxious to get you in here and just sort of hear from you what’s going on. But first we have some icebreakers on Hustle and Pro. And since you have not been a guest on this podcast yet, I want to hear a couple things about you personally, before we jump in to talk about the RoughRiders. Um, who’s your favorite athlete of all time?
Ooh, favorite athlete of all time? Uh, I don’t know that I have a definite favorite. My, the first person that comes to mind is Bernie Koser. Okay. That’s I’m a lifelong Browns fan.
Yeah. Alright, so then what, uh, sports you’re you run a base, a couple baseball teams. Is that your favorite sport?
Yeah, baseball has been for me my entire life. I grew up, um, you know, being dragged to the little league field by my dad who started coaching when he was 18. I was born five years later. And, um, so, uh, my life has been, uh, at a ballpark and, um, all I ever want to do is play baseball and have a good time. It turns out those don’t go hand in hand. And so I played through college and then focused on selling baseball and selling it.
But you’re still in baseball now. I thought you might’ve said basketball. I know you’re a basketball guy too, right?
Yeah. I love basketball. I’m a more of a college guy. Grew up on Indiana. Basketball was born in Bloomington, delivered by the team doctor for, IU got to get that instilled in me and then a football, baseball. Basketball has been my go to.
Basketball baby and baseball brat kid growing up. Right. So awesome. One more. What’s your favorite sports movie? Uh, probably Field of Dreams.
Me too. Yeah. Yes. See we’re baseball people. Alright. Okay. We are sitting here in early June and we know things are different this season. Normally in early June, we’d be in the thick of it. And I had gone to, you know, 10 RoughRiders games already, probably by this point and all would be good in the world of sports. We are not experiencing that this year, obviously. Um, some we’re seeing news about major league activity and what, what, what the MLB might get back to and what they’re proposing as recent as yesterday with some CVI stuff and who knows what that’ll, um, shake down to. Um, but here in Frisco, I care about what’s going on with my RoughRiders. So what can you tell us now, like how do you describe the state of, of where the minor league play is?
Well, um, you know, it’s just such an interesting time, um, between the pandemic, the impact that’s had on the sporting world, uh, then you, you throw in kind of where major league baseball and minor league baseball were with the, um, the prospect of eliminating 42 teams going into next year. And, uh, the, the strain that, that is kind of put on everything and the negotiations, which have been put on hold related to that while they try to figure out what they’re going to do with the players to open their season. So in, in many respects, we’ve kind of been left in the dark. We, we’ve not been told they’re going to cancel our season. Um, but they’re not going to make a decision on our season until they’re done with theirs, uh, and, and not done with hers, but they’ve made a decision on theirs
If at some point they were at the point in overturn.
Yeah. And I, I think, um, I think frankly, we’re there. Um, I, I would not expect us to play, um, a RoughRider season this year, but I don’t think an announcement is going to come until they figure out what they’re doing with theirs and make that decision hand in hand, because there’s some other things that come along with that with, uh, what are they going to do in terms of a taxi squad and players to move up or move down. And some things like that. And I think what I’m expecting is that at some point in the next couple of weeks, they are going to officially make a decision on our season, which will be that they probably will not have it. And then, um, we’ll go from there. I think because of our location, the expectation is that we would be the home of a taxi squad for the Rangers. And so, you know, 20, yeah, 20, 25 guys, whoever they have on that taxi squad, it’ll be pitcher heavy. I’m sure we’ll come to our place and just work out and prepare. So if, and when the time comes that they need them, we would have players ready and available.
Yeah. Is, is that something, um, league wide or would we have an advantage being so close to the Rangers that are pitching benches deeper because we’re so close in proximity.
Yeah. So I think this would not be a league wide thing. Each major league team would presumably have the choice to kind of put their taxi squad wherever they want. So they might go to their spring training site. A, you might go to a minor league team that’s close by if it’s regional, maybe it’s done with a local college program that has the facilities they need.
So I think it will be made on a case by case basis, but because of our proximity to Arlington their ability to get their player personnel guys back and forth and to move guys quickly, it’s a natural fit for us to do that.
Sure. Okay. So I just need you to explain a little bit about the ownership structure and how that plays into the fate of various minor league teams. I’ve read a little bit about and seen some things like that Chuck Greenberg has written or commented about in the media. And I didn’t fully understand, you know, the ranger zone Nashville, but not necessarily for SCO and I didn’t fully get all that. Can you just give me and our audience a rundown of what that looks like and how that, why that is so important this year?
Yeah, so, um, we own, uh, Chuck Greenberg’s ownership group owns the rights to a franchise, uh, in the Texas league. So in this case, the tech, the Frisco RoughRiders, we have, um, an agreement there’s 160 minor league teams around the country. Um, and they are governed by the national association of professional baseball leagues, um, uh, officially known as minor league baseball. And we have, um, the professional baseball agreement. The PBA is the contract. That’s bound us to the major leagues for a hundred plus years. And it’s, uh, it’s about two and a half inches thick and it prescribes every single detail of the relationship. Um, and that that’s from the number of lockers, the number of restroom facilities in there, the size of your weight room, the lights, the foot candles on the infield, the foot candles on the outfield uniformity of that lighting standard, the number of seats, laboratories, you name it, everything you could imagine is in this agreement. Um, and, and so there’s no real negotiations or anything. We sign a, a player development contract with the Texas Rangers in our case, which is literally three sentences long. And it says, we’ll agree to be bound by the terms of the professional baseball agreement that agreement expires at the end of this year. Typically they’re signing anywhere from eight to 11 or 12 year increments. Um, player development contracts can change in even numbered years and they’re signed in two or four year lengths and major league baseball made. It, made everybody aware at the end of the last, um, player development cycle that they were going to, uh, eliminate 42 teams under the premise that player facilities were not up to par. And there were geographical concerns about the league and the travel and so forth, not just the Texas league, but all throughout minor league baseball. And at that point there a negotiation began, um, where minor league baseball went to bat to try to protect all 160 teams. And, um, and, you know, figuring that there would be some concessions in some geographical realignment and teams moving from one league to another to try to reduce travel, but ultimately felt like the support of the public, the support of Congress, uh, the local municipalities and States attorney generals that have invested in stadiums and floated municipal bonds to build these based on rents from these owners, um, would have their tenants, um, continue to have affiliated minor league baseball. And I think we felt really good that we would end in a good spot where we concessions on both sides and, and we’d be playing in 2021 with 160 teams as we always have. And, um, everything would work itself out. And, uh, we’d be given a period of time to upgrade facilities and player batting cages and clubhouses and things like that. Um, unfortunately with the pandemic, uh, everybody’s focus has shifted entirely away from this, uh, to, uh, to things that are considerably more.
Yeah, well, and in the baseball world, like revenue and get, I mean, you’re in a completely different everyone’s in a completely different position than were at the end of last season, knowing.
Yeah. It’s changed for everybody. And I think so. So getting back to, I guess I deviated from your original question, um, we own the rights to a team and it’s essentially like a movie theater. Uh, I’m in charge of selling tickets, selling hotdogs, marketing, and promoting the movies and getting people to come through the turnstiles, that movie experience and everything that goes along with it, our engagement, the community, and you name it. The Texas Rangers are responsible for providing us a team of players and coaches, um, that they pay for and ensure. And then we cover all the expenses related to that. So, uh, uniforms, we split bat and ball expenses. We pay for hotels. We pay for the buses. We pay for the umpires. We pay for maintaining the grounds and maintaining the clubhouse and providing post-game meals and spreads and things. And so major league baseball basically provides the players. We cover all the other player related expenses, and we pay a ticket tax that I believe is around eight and a half percent of all ticket revenues to major league baseball, to offset that expense, put in a pool situation, or specifically at the ranger to the front, we pay it to major league baseball. Um, and that goes to the commissioner’s office and what happens to it there. Right. I have no idea, but, um, yeah, so that, that’s the nature of the arrangement. I think some major league owners look at it is there are people making money off of our players. Um, even though at one point major league baseball owned all of these franchises and decided this wasn’t a profitable business and it wasn’t something they wanted to do to have all the overhead. And so they, they offloaded that. So they could focus on the important part of it, which was player development. And as the business has grown and flourished and entrepreneurs have invested themselves in their communities and into these teams, um, some major league owners have started to take a look at it again and say, wait, maybe we should own this. So, um.
Is that the situation in Round Rock now? Nashville?
Uh, so Round Rock and Nashville’s, um, is, is, is a little bit different. So the Rangers, they own their team in Hickory, um, and they own their team in down East and the Carolina league. They just have a standard professional, uh, player development contract with Nashville. Um, and I think that had more to do with, uh, Nolan Ryan leaving the Rangers and Reed going to become the president of the Astros. And so that affiliation shift in Round Rock was as a result of that. Gotcha. Um, yeah. And now that Reed’s no longer with the Astros speculation, is that going forward that that shift back may occur. So.
Okay. So the eliminating of 42 teams is not a, uh, Coronavirus. It was going to happen before it could have happened possibly before that the original idea of that, of that coming down was not because of this shutdown, but it’s going to change because of it.
Yeah. So it had nothing to do with this. Um, it was, it was couched, uh, in a way that suggests that it was related to player facilities and travel. Um, I think it has more to do with eliminating player salaries and reducing costs and also destabilizing franchise values. So that major league baseball could come in and potentially buy more franchises and take over the industry.
Yeah. I would think if you’re talking about facilities and player facilities and travel, the RoughRiders are in a good position. You guys have to have one of the better facilities. And as far as being in travel hub, travel hubs, I mean, I feel like if there’s any kind of rank, we would be in a good position to be one of those stronger teams at the top of the league.
Yeah, no question. Um, you know, the location of the ballpark, the quality of the ballpark, uh, the proximity to our major league affiliate makes us one of the, the premium spots in the industry. Um, and I think it’ll be interesting to see now, because as you mentioned, this didn’t come about because of the coronavirus, but in a lot of ways, the Coronavirus has given major league baseball to cover, to kind of do whatever they want and use the impact and financial impact of the coronavirus is, is a reason. Um, so speculation is there’s a team in Sugar Land, Texas it’s independent that would become a triple a team for the Astros under this scenario. Um, speculation is that somebody has got to move down from AAA. So maybe San Antonio would, or somebody would move down, you know, who knows. Um, and some teams might move up to AAA. Some teams might move down. There’s speculation of some of the teams in the Carolina league and South Atlantic league swapping and moving around. So those leagues would, would split into maybe three leagues that are more closely located from a proximity standpoint.
It’s a lot of shuffling to be had. But the timing with that though, I mean, we’re talking, don’t even know if you’re going to get a game in this season, coupled with the fact that don’t even know what teams are going to survive and where they’re going to be funneled into a major league team is all that happening at the same time.
It’s all happening at the same time. And so, so right now you have a bunch of, you have 42 teams that were put on a list that was that they were going to be eliminated. And those 42 teams have started a jockey for position to try to keep from being eliminated. Um, and some of them have received assurances from who I’m not sure exactly that they will, that they are no longer on the list, but major league baseball recognizing the error of their ways is not going to announce another list going forward. So yeah.
The drama, man.
So it’s, it’s, it’s a really crazy uncertain time.
Yeah. It sounds like it.
I was gonna say, meanwhile, you know, the, the, the game of baseball and this is the part of it from my perspective, that’s really frustrating is, you know, we had a window of opportunity where people were locked in their homes with nothing to do, and you have a game that takes a lot of criticism for, um, for, for being and people not having the time it takes to consume it and to watch it and to embrace it and to learn it.
Those people are crazy by the way.
And yeah, I agree. Um, and you have kids who really need to sit and watch it with mom or dad to explain the nuances of the game. So they become appreciative of it. And here we have this window of opportunity for the game. And instead we have the millionaires and billionaires kind of fighting and squabbling over the money. And it just seems like there’s a much better way to do this.
Yeah. It is sad to not be able to take advantage of this opportunity. Like, you know, we’ve seen the [inaudible] league do it and being able to be one of the few live sports on TV every Saturday morning. Um, so they’re getting fans and we’ve seen other sports, um, UFC and some, uh, now I’m trying to think of what else has really like started off still being able to be played. I mean, baseball is doing it in other parts of the country, right? Not necessarily with a stadium full of people, but like you said, they’re airing things on TV and families can sit and watch and gain knowledge and enjoy the sport and pass that down to other generations it’s happening elsewhere. It’s a shame that we haven’t figured out a way to get em, get moving on it and happening here.
You know, it’s, it’s really weird too, because you have different areas of the country that have different philosophies on opening the, the opening up for businesses and spectator sports. And yeah. So when you think about minor league baseball, you have 160 teams located all over the country, all in different spaces, spaces in terms of the coronavirus impact, um, the different States of being open or closed. And so it’s, it’s really hard to think of the interstate aspect of this and putting kids on a bus and moving them around, staying in different hotels, some stadiums that are great. Some that aren’t so great, all types of different levels of community responses. So it’s, it’s really hard to envision a scenario in which they’re gonna send these players back out, uh, to play in a scenario where the major league clubs, frankly, don’t benefit financially from turning these guys loose. Um, they lose a year of growth and development, but everybody loses it together. And so no harm, no foul,
Universal setback. Yeah. I acknowledged that. It’s not as simple as it sounds from me sitting on my couch, thinking let’s get baseball back on TV. I know that it’s got a lot more moving parts than, than that. I don’t envy the people having to make those decisions at all.
The thing that’s really frustrating as a, as a fan of the game, that’s somebody working in it is the players, union and baseball is really different than all the other player unions. And, um, you know, you look at the NBA who works with the players and who celebrates stars and, and promotes them utilizing their own social channels and embraces their engagement in social activities, whether it’s in the form of protest or whatever. And it’s just such a partnership between the players and the owners, the books are shared the percentages and the salary. And you just don’t see that in, in baseball, it’s, everything’s kind of an antagonistic fight between the two and in this case, especially, it seems as though we’re squandering a really good opportunity. Yeah.
So one last thing, um, if we don’t have a season here, I know you said probably not my heartbreaks a little, because that is my that’s my summer. I mean, I know it’s April to August usually, but still that’s, that’s our, usually our summer activities and we will miss it terribly. Um, I’ve seen other minor league stories about, uh, what they’re going to do with their facilities and these amazing stadiums that we all love. Like I just love being in that ballpark. So I guess my question is, are you guys gonna Airbnb the ballpark?
So we do have a lot of plans for the ballpark. Um, some revolving around, uh, movie nights, maybe Dallas Stars, playoff viewing parties. Um, maybe, uh, we’re having conversation with somebody about a boat show. Um, and I think in the very near future, you could hear an announcement about a Texas Collegiate, uh, summer league. Um, college would bat league baseball is shut down all over the country. Um, the Texas Collegiate League is, is looking to play. They have some teams that are located in some areas of the country where they’re not going to be able to. So there’s been a movement here over the last four or five days with a lot of teams and affiliated minor league baseball throughout Texas and Oklahoma that would potentially join the Texas Collegiate league and pick up players from Baylor, Texas tech, UT you name it, college kids from around the country, but, but mostly kids regionally, they would have a chance to play at an abbreviated schedule, 14, 15 home games.
And, um, we hope that we’ll be one of those teams that can start playing in early July.
Cool. Fans or no fans.
Uh, with fans, um, under social distancing guidelines and, um, limited capacities and six feet between families and so forth. Um, so we actually have been working through that the last two days, what it would take, what it looks like, um, the way you handle food and beverage completely changes the way you serve food to in sweet areas or group spaces, there would be no more buffets, um, just a completely different environment to execute the game day experience, but it’d be a chance to get people out to the ballpark, let them enjoy the, a ballgame and a hotdog and a beer and the friends and family. They like to watch ball games with.
Okay, well, I’m, I’m officially RSVP. Yes for four to any of the things that you have at the ballpark baseball or otherwise, we love movie nights and all that other stuff too, that happens out there. So I, Andy, thank you. I’m gonna let you get back to the ballpark and figure all that out so you can get those games going and scheduled, but I appreciate your time here. I know that you’re busy. Um, there’s a lot of a lot going on and I really appreciate you just sort of clarifying this where we are for me. Happy to do it. No, uh, look forward to seeing you back out of the ballpark. Hopefully we’ll have some baseball there in a few weeks. I hope so. So thank you for listening to this episode of Hustle and Pro. If you haven’t already subscribe on iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcasts and we will see you next week.