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 Memphis in both 1937 and
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
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.
Mozeliak what went into the decision to renew the agreement for four years
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.
groups represented, the Cardinals, the Redbirds and Redbirds Foundation, may
discuss financial arrangements in the future, but that is not part of Thursday’s
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
Yet, Memphis did look at
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
community makes all the sense in the world. There was just nothing else out
there in his mind that made any more sense,” explained
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
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,
is not broken. We’re still one of the top franchises in the country,” explained
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.
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.
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
John Pontius of the Redbirds Foundation was also
pleased with the deal and made it clear that any financial pressures are not
“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
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
Brian Walton can be reached via
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