When Rick Curti moved to Charlotte 11 years ago, he wondered why the community didn’t have a Major League Baseball team. MLB is the only major American professional league to not have a team in North Carolina. More specifically, the NBA has the Charlotte Hornets while the NFL hosts the Carolina Panthers, each based in Charlotte.
Eventually, Curti decided to do something about it and started a movement to bring MLB to Charlotte, tentatively calling the team the Charlotte Bats.
“It’s the second largest media market without MLB,” Curti said. “Unemployment is the lowest that’s it’s been in the last 15 years. We have the Knights, the Minor League AAA team. They are averaging over 9,200 a game and are leading MiLB in attendance over the last three years. There’s a rich history of baseball in our city and our state, too.”
Indeed, the Knights, the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, are one of 11 MiLB teams in the Tar Heel State. Another, the Durham Bulls, was depicted in the 1988 movie “Bull Durham.”
The connections to Hollywood don’t stop there. The real life Moonlight Graham did spend most of his life after his brief MLB career in Minnesota, as was portrayed in 1989’s “Field of Dreams.” But he was one of many players in MLB history native to North Carolina.
Charlotte also has more than a pair of Kevin Costner movies working in its favor. It has strong corporate ties, which are needed for sponsorship. Pepsi was created in North Carolina, while many companies, including the Charlotte based Bank of America, are headquartered in the state.
So, how would MLB find its way to Charlotte?
One way is expansion. Curti did acknowledge that Montreal would probably be the next city to get a team. But he also noted that MLB expands two at a time. Another possibility would be a current team moving. The Tampa Bay Rays, whose stadium situation remains in flux, would be a natural candidate.
As Curti noted, Charlotte already has a sizable transplant population from the other four American League East cities (Baltimore, Boston, New York, Toronto). Given that a move to Charlotte would keep the Rays in that division and that MLB’s unbalanced schedule leads to many divisional games, a good portion of the city’s population would be interested in a high number of the team’s games.
So is it possible the Charlotte Bats will ever be more than just a dream? We’re not sure, but there’s a compelling case to be made they should be.