The Triple-A National Championship faces an uncertain future after the event’s sponsor and television partner opted not to renew their contracts once they expire following this year’s game in Columbus, Ohio.
Triple-A Baseball, which is a separate entity from Minor League Baseball and puts on the National Championship and Triple-A All-Star Game, will continue to pursue a new sponsor and television contract for its postseason game, International League President Randy Mobley said. However, Mobley said, team owners will discuss potential courses of action if they are not able to secure new contracts when they gather for the All-Star Game next week in Columbus. This includes the possibility of not holding the game in the future.
“We’re still looking at this fall for a final decision,” Mobley said, noting that is when they usually announce the site of the next year’s game. “At the meetings coming up, we’ll be updating the clubs as to where those discussions are with the networks or potential sponsors and start making determinations. At one extreme would be going forward without television or without a sponsor. That could be at one end of the spectrum. At the other end of the spectrum might be clubs saying we don’t want to continue the event if we don’t have television or if we don’t have sponsors. And there may be variations between those two extremes.
“So that is part of what we have to begin the discussion on next week, and I expect that discussion to continue over the coming weeks, as we start to get a temperature of the clubs as to what they want to do. Because obviously at some point, it could potentially involve the clubs financially supporting the event.”
Mobley’s last point is an important one. Since the Triple-A National Championship falls after the conclusion of the championship playing season as defined by the Professional Baseball Agreement between the major and minor leagues, Triple-A Baseball is responsible for covering all expenses—including player salaries, bonuses, travel and accommodations. Triple-A owners would have to decide if the positive publicity is worth the cost of putting on an event that typically does not generate much revenue for teams other than the host.
“There are some significant expenses with this event,” Mobley said.
Gildan informed Triple-A Baseball earlier this year that it would not renew its contract after a six-year run as sponsor. Similarly, NBC Sports Network, which inherited the game after acquiring the Versus network, opted not to renew its contract in part because the Triple-A National Championship is the only baseball the network airs. Both relationships ended amicably, Mobley said.
The event has grown in popularity since ending a five-year run of playing in Oklahoma City in favor of moving from park to park, similar to its all-star game, beginning in 2011. During the recent seven-year span, nine of the 30 Triple-A teams have played in the championship, resulting in six different champions.
“The television and the sponsorship has been good,” Mobley said. “And attendance has been good. You know, it’s one of those things I think that the teams who have participated in it, and especially those who have won, have found great value in it. Those teams that have not sniffed it probably are less vocal, have less feelings about it, some of them. But again, those teams that experienced it and had some success, it is something they have valued and gotten good mileage out of.”