Dave Stewart, Alberto Gonzales and John Loar of Music City Baseball speak on bringing an MLB team to Nashville.
Courtney Pedroza, Nashville Tennessean
Major League Baseball may not be moving forward with expansion yet, but a group seeking to bring baseball to Nashville has already chosen a team name: the Nashville Stars.
The local group, Music City Baseball LLC, led by newcomer businessman John Loar and also including former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and retired pitcher and front office executive Dave Stewart, announced the nickname Wednesday in meetings with local media.
Nashville Stars is an homage to the Negro Leagues, Loar said. Stars was one of several nicknames used by a Nashville team in the Negro Leagues.
In addition to the team name, Loar said the group has entered into a partnership with the Negro Leagues Museum. Those details are still being ironed out, but the hope is that the deal will include revenue sharing and cooperating with marketing and social media, Loar said.
“There’s such a rich baseball history in this state, specifically in Nashville,” Loar said, adding that he decided on the name after reading a book on Nashville’s baseball history by author Skip Nipper. “The Nashville Stars is in our DNA. It’s our brand.”
The team nickname comes with the context that there is no formal effort by the MLB to expand. The decision to expand, and the process of selecting expansion cities typically takes many years.
“The relationship with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is very important, but we know we can’t get a franchise just based on that,” Gonzales said. “We will have to make the business case that a baseball franchise here in Nashville will generate positive net revenue for the owners. That’s what they’re interested in.
“We also will have to make the case to the people of Nashville, and city and state officials, that a baseball franchise is going to enhance the reputation of the city and it’s going to benefit the citizens of Nashville either directly or indirectly. So these are objectives that obviously we’re aware and we intend to achieve.”
From Left: Dave Stewart, Alberto Gonzales and John Loar of Music City Baseball pose for a photo Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: Courtney Pedroza / The Tennessean )
Stewart has worn just about every hat in professional baseball. He had a decorated playing career and has also held several management roles. Loar said he and Stewart were part of a failed bid to purchase the Miami Marlins.
The two are working together again to bring Major League Baseball to Nashville.
“I’ve been in baseball 45 years in many different capacities,” Stewart said. “One, as a player. I coached. General manager. I was assistant GM, minor league director, director of player personnel. I’ve done it all.
“My role in this, one is to be able to smooth things through the major league office. I’ve got relationships in the office to be able to make our path a little bit easier to connect with people who in most cases are not easy to connect to.”
Hall of Fame former manager Tony La Russa and Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin are also involved with the Music City Baseball group’s initiative in advisory capacities.
The idea of a big-league franchise coming to Nashville gained momentum last summer when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred dropped the city’s name during a television interview while in Washington, D.C., for the All-Star Game.
“We have a real list of cities that I think are not only interested in having baseball, but are viable in terms of baseball — places like Portland (Ore.), Las Vegas, Charlotte, (N.C.), Nashville in the United States, certainly Montreal, maybe Vancouver, in Canada. We think there’s places in Mexico we could go over the long haul,” Manfred said.
MLB has stated that any expansion plans are on hold until stadium issues in Oakland and Tampa are settled. The Tampa Bay Rays were given permission from the league office in June to explore playing a split season with games in Tampa and Montreal.
“There is currently no expansion process in place,” Pat Courtney, chief communications officer for MLB, said Wednesday by email in response to questions about future expansion and the possibility of a franchise coming to Nashville.
Loar and Gonzales were scheduled to meet with MLB officials in New York City in May, but the meeting was postponed.
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