Minor league baseball has returned to St. Joseph, Missouri, in the form of an independent team in the newly-formed American Association. The Blacksnakes will begin play on the road Friday with a series in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, then they play four games in St. Paul before playing their first home opener on May 19.
The organization began on January 2, not much other than four walls. “The first day we were here it was just an open office space, with not even a phone,” said Miller. He added that sales have been going well, with just a few of the 514 chair back seat season tickets remaining.
St. Joseph and minor league baseball are no strangers, but it’s been a while since the two parted company. The town had professional minor league baseball from the 1890’s until the 1950’s with teams affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Browns and the New York Yankees. Since then, St. Joseph’s baseball fix has come in the form of the St. Joe Saints, a college wood bat league team that played each summer over the past decade. The team was popular, but many felt it was time to move up.
“The volunteer board with the Saints realized that they’d probably taken (the team) as far as they were gonna go and the next step, logically, was a professional minor league baseball team here,” Miller said.
So when American Association Commissioner Miles Wolff approached the board about the possibility of joining the new league last fall, they jumped at the offer.
Backing the team is an ownership group which owns eight minor league teams, three of which are unaffiliated teams. One of the owners is Mike Veeck, who is the son of former major league owner, Bill Veeck.
The state of independent league teams is often hit or miss. For example, the Mid-Missouri Mavericks of the Frontier League are taking a year off after struggling in three seasons in Columbia. But to the east, the River City Rascals of O’Fallon, Missouri often lead the league in attendance.
But Miller says the ownership group and the Veeck name should comfort fans and give them assurance that this team will succeed.
“We haven’t actually (gotten advice from) other franchises, per se, because this ownership group does operate several other franchises and do it very successfully,” Miller said. “They’ve been successful in every place they’ve gone.”