Middle Georgia continues to miss out

dshirley@macon.comJuly 5, 2012 

One of the best parts of the Fourth of July is going to a ballgame.

It’s hard to beat minor league baseball and fireworks spent with family on our nation’s big day.

We got to enjoy all three Wednesday in South Carolina, and it certainly was a lot of fun. But it also was a big reminder of what we’re missing here in Middle Georgia.

Ironically, the game we attended in Greenville, S.C., featured the Rome Braves, the same Braves minor league affiliate that used to call Macon home. Rome beat the Greenville Drive on Wednesday, but that wasn’t the point.

In fact, it’s not really the point of any minor league sports team or game.

Sure, the teams and players want to win, but there are many more positives that minor league sports offer beyond winning or losing games. The games can become a happening, a chance for towns to come together and enjoy a night out and a game at the same time, an opportunity for people to see the best of their town.

We haven’t had that for some time in Macon and probably won’t again for a while, and that’s a shame. Our city leaders blew it when they let the Braves leave town, but the current leaders could come together and fix that if they wanted to make it happen.

Bringing back minor league sports certainly would cost quite a bit of money, but it would be worth it.

Teams like these quickly pay for themselves in a variety of ways, and they add to an area’s quality of living that goes beyond the money.

We saw that Wednesday with a beautiful downtown ballpark, which was packed with a large crowd. And do you know what those fans were doing? Enjoying downtown. Enjoying each other. Seeing the best Greenville has to offer. Oh, and they were spending money.

Who wouldn’t want that?

Granted, a downtown baseball park in Macon probably wouldn’t be the best way to go about fixing this problem. It would be better to build such a stadium between Macon and Warner Robins right off the interstate to make it a regional team, getting more people involved. It’s something that fans could take a lot of pride in and get behind pretty easily. It’s something that would be a huge plus for our area.

But it also wouldn’t just have to be baseball. Middle Georgia would be a perfect spot for an NBA D-League team or a legitimate arena football team. I say legitimate because we saw recently how that can go down the drain quickly with teams that are on shaky (at best) ground.

Those aren’t the kind of teams we want Middle Georgia to be involved with anymore. We have seen enough of that. It’s time for our region to come together and put its best foot forward to bring back a team affiliated with a major professional franchise.

And then we can enjoy the kind of night that Greenville celebrated Wednesday.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or sports@macon.com

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