The St. Louis Cardinals and the Memphis Redbirds of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League announced Thursday that they have agreed to a four-year extension of their player development contract through 2012.
have been affiliated with the Memphis Redbirds for the past 11 seasons, in
addition to single-year stints in the city of
In addition to
the announcement of their affiliate extension, the Cardinals and Redbirds also
"I think everyone knows that is where we wanted to be all along," stated Cardinals' Vice President/General Manager John Mozeliak from the St. Louis dugout prior to Thursday's game.
I asked Mozeliak what went into the decision to renew the agreement for four years versus two.
"Anytime we could get the stability and not have to go back through this two years from now, that was definitely my goal. I think everybody out there would agree that this makes the most sense. We're trying to think of it in both short term and long term," said the GM.
The three groups represented, the Cardinals, the Redbirds and Redbirds Foundation, may discuss financial arrangements in the future, but that is not part of Thursday's announcement.
Mozeliak clarified. "Today, we are just dealing with the PDC, which is completely independent of any financial issues that may be lingering… Our main goal was to just to secure the St. Louis Cardinals and the Memphis Redbirds for the next four years."
Redbirds president Dave Chase agrees. "Our fans and our immediate market is Cardinals country. No doubt about it… The most important part was the Player Development Contract. We've had a history of four-year agreements. This was all part of that history."
While Chase stopped short of crediting an improved product on the field for sealing the deal, he recognized it was a factor.
"I think we saw some real positive feedback from our fans in the fact that we had a younger team than we've had in the past and the team played hard and we were in the pennant race down to the last week or so of the season. The baseball we were watching was really enjoyable.
"We saw an increase in walk-up sales, which is probably the best way to measure that. It was the positive from that. We had a team that was never out of any game, whether we were down by five or six runs in the first inning or not. The team fought back and that's enjoyable baseball.
"I won't say
that was unrelated. Mr. Jernigan made that quite clear last fall that he wanted
us to have a competitive team. And we certainly got it and we got it with young
players. So many players came up here (to
"There are 160
minor league baseball teams and most of the last ten years, we have been number
two in the country behind
Yet, there is no doubt that there is business benefit expected from the agreement.
"I think this
renewing with the Cardinals today and getting that word back to
continuation of the annual Civil Rights Game in
Mozeliak was asked if the sides might sit down later to discuss the Cardinals taking a financial interest or providing assistance. His answer left the door open, but also made it clear nothing is imminent.
"In terms of looking at something later to address something along those lines, I think any and all things may be on the table at some point. But right now, in what we are doing here today, that was never something that was discussed," Mozeliak said.
John Pontius of the Redbirds Foundation was also pleased with the deal and made it clear that any financial pressures are not immediate.
"It is no secret that we built a fabulous ballpark. That was expensive and we incurred a lot of debt in doing so. But ten years later, we are current on our bond payments so we've got a great thing going and we'll figure out how to keep baseball played here for the long term."
Like all the
others, the importance of the fans of
"There is no question that the community would be disappointed if we were not affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals," he explained.
Chase summed up
perfectly the importance of the Cardinals to
"I would argue
that in most communities, it doesn't matter who you are affiliated with. In
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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