Cardinals and Memphis Renew for Four Years

The St. Louis Cardinals and the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds are continuing their marriage for four more years. In addition, the two will face off in a pair of exhibition games next April.

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.


The Cardinals have been affiliated with the Memphis Redbirds for the past 11 seasons, in addition to single-year stints in the city of Memphis in both 1937 and 1960.


In addition to the announcement of their affiliate extension, the Cardinals and Redbirds also announced that Memphis will host the Cardinals in 2009 for a pair of exhibition games at AutoZone Park on April 3 and April 4.


"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."


Yet, Memphis did look at alternatives.


"As Mr. Jernigan (Memphis owner Dean) was looking to see was in the best interests of his franchise and his investment, he also wanted to recognize what was in the best interest of his city and community. In doing so, he did some due diligence in what might be out there, but ultimately, the reason we sit before you today, is that he felt like having the Cardinals be a part of the Memphis community makes all the sense in the world. There was just nothing else out there in his mind that made any more sense," explained Mozeliak.


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 St. Louis), we were able to pull from Springfield and we stayed in contention and the Cardinals stayed in contention and Springfield stayed in contention. That speaks volumes about the success of continuing to be part of the Cardinals organization," Chase said.


The Memphis president made it clear that Redbirds attendance continues to be solid.


"There are 160 minor league baseball teams and most of the last ten years, we have been number two in the country behind Sacramento. The last couple of years, we have been three or four, but the gap isn't widening between us necessarily. So, Memphis baseball is not broken. We're still one of the top franchises in the country," explained Chase.


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 Memphis – we're going to see an immediate impact on season ticket renewals and hopefully some new season ticket business as well," predicted Chase.


The continuation of the annual Civil Rights Game in Memphis, promised by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is still under discussion.  "We're ahead of the timeline we have been on the last two years.  We're still talking… We want the Civil Rights Game to remain in Memphis," Chase said.


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 Memphis was a central concern to Pontius.


"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 Memphis, with that being the driving factor behind the extension.


"I would argue that in most communities, it doesn't matter who you are affiliated with. In Memphis, I think it matters. I think it should be the St. Louis Cardinals," Chase said.


Brian Walton can be reached via email at


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