Big10 Baseball Tourney to Columbus Forever?

Submitted by formerlyanonymous on October 26th, 2009 at 11:21 AM

Last week I posted on mgoboard the initial rumormongering that the BigTen Conference Baseball Championship Tournament would be moving to Columbus, OH semi-permanently. That rumor has gained traction now, as Columbus Dispatch writer Bob Hunter now confirms the rumor and sets a timeline of next week for the official announcement of a contract between the Columbus Clippers, the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, and the BigTen that puts the tournament in Columbus through at least 2013, with options through 2016.

The Big Ten will move the tournament to Ohio State's Bill Davis Field for one year so it can have it in Huntington Park the next two, sources say. Previously, the conference champion was the host, so it says a lot about Columbus' trial run that the Buckeyes will be the host even if they don't finish on top.

League and local officials are hoping that this is the beginning of a long run in Columbus. The city will have an option to add three more years starting in 2013.

So while not only does Ohio State get the tournament just 3 miles from their home field at the stadium of the AAA Indians affiliate Columbus Clippers, but next year, they are hosting the tournament at their own home field on campus. In a year they are expected to have a top tier team, the conference is just giving them home field advantage.

As a Michigan fan, I'd be hugely upset with this. If we make the tournament, we're bound to face an even more hostile environment even in games not against Ohio State just do to the school rivalries. If we somehow end up a higher seed (based on off season projections, that's unlikely), and we're forced to play in front of a packed Bill Davis, that's just unfair.

If I were a Minnesota fan, I think I'd be livid. The Gophers are a lot of people's off season favorites for the year, and they know they have to travel to Ohio State for the conference champion to face the team who most pick to finish second. That's just unfair.

That said, both of those injustices could end up being nothing. If Ohio State does win the regular season, I think the one year move to Bill Davis will be passable. If OSU, for some reason, ends up somewhere else, I think several teams will have a reasonable concern for how the tournament is being scheduled, not only this year, but in future seasons as well.

While I appreciate the BigTen's effort to create a preplanned site for the tournament that suits the travel schedule for each school's teams and fans, I think they are doing the league an injustice by making it permanently in Columbus. There are multiple other fields that are close enough to other BigTen teams. A list of minor league parks and a few independents (map of MiLB parks for those who would rather look):

Toledo MudHens

  • Pro: Central to a majority of the conference schools, especially the baseball ones other than Minnesota
  • Pro: AAA-level stadium
  • Pro: No true homefield
  • Con: Meh familiarity of the area for most schools

Indianapolis Indians

  • Con?: Potential NCAA conflict with Native American team name?
  • Pro: AAA-level stadium
  • Pro: East-West centralized in the conference geography
  • Pro: Transportation in/out is easy
  • Con: Meh familiarity with most schools

East Lansing Lugnuts

  • Pro: AA-level stadium
  • Pro: Held previous NCAA games when MSU used to play there occasionally
  • Pro: One less team that may have to travel
  • Pro: Teams familiar with hotels in the area due to playing at MSU

Fort Wayne TinCaps

  • Pro: A-level stadium
  • Pro: Centralized to most of the baseball schools
  • Pro: No homefield advantage
  • Con: Unfamiliar area for most schools

Madison Mallards

  • Pro: Ultimate irony - having the BigTen Championship for baseball in the only BigTen town to cut its baseball team.
  • Pro: Solid college baseball summer league stadium, including 200,000 fans during its 2009 season (we're not talking your average Michigan high school field, it's nice)
  • Pro: Schools are familiar with Madison
  • Pro: No homefield advantage
  • Con: It's not centralized to most of the baseball power
  • This is my personal favorite due to irony and being a way to promote Wisconsin to one day returning to baseball.

Dayton Dragons

  • Pro: A-level stadium
  • Pro: Central to baseball schools except Minnesota
  • Con: Meh familiarity area for most schools

Kane County Cougars

  • Pro: A-level stadium
  • Pro: Central to the whole conference (W of Chicago)
  • Pro: No homefield advantage
  • Con: Unfamiliar area for most schools

Joliet Jackhammers

  • Pro: Independent League Stadium
  • Pro: Central to conference baseball schools (SW of Chicago)
  • Con: Unfamiliar area for schools

Gary RailCats

  • Pro: Independent League Stadium
  • Pro: Central to conference baseball schools (SE of Chicago)
  • Con: It's in Gary, IN
  • Con: Unfamiliar area for schools

There's also a A-level team in South Bend, Akron and a few other cities that may or may not be the best travel destinations due to either not being very central or being a bit out of the way (Grand Rapids, Iowa and Illinois teams, other E. Ohio and Pennsylvania teams). Some of these excluded might also have some value, but I don't think I started to stretch around Kane County. I also admit that I'm not familiar enough with several of the collegiate parks in the Northwoods league, but like the Madison Mallards, several are very nice.

I think my bigger point is that if the conference wants to go to a pre-planned site, it should be either neutral or rotating. Sure, sometimes a team may get an unfair homefield advantage. Sure, sometimes you might not be central to all 6 teams in the tournament. What you do get is a fair chance at home field advantage. If you can't earn the home field, it needs to be fairly distributed.

It's wrong that the BigTen is deciding on keeping the game in Columbus. One year does not mean the tournament turnout will be successful year after year. If the Buckeyes don't make the tournament in the next 2 years, I'll be interested to see just how much of a drop there is in attendance.

As much as I hope a drop in attendance happens, just so the BigTen may reconsider keeping it in Columbus permanently, I just don't know if I can actually wish that. College baseball is really gaining momentum in the mainstream, and I don't want to see our conference drop any of the current interest we've got going. So I'm left just hoping the BigTen makes a better decision, and it appears it's already too late for that.



October 26th, 2009 at 11:34 AM ^

the Madison Mallards park or the Lansing Lugnuts be just as terrible and unfair as Columbus?

Of all of the stadiums on the list I think that Toledo makes the most sense as the most viable choice for a longer term solution. There are no teams within walking distance to the stadium, it's a central location, it's a great ball park and one of the biggest cities on the list (that isn't a complete cess-pool I'm looking at you Gary, IN).

It should be at Toledo (and there is even a D-1 school in the area.


October 26th, 2009 at 7:18 PM ^

If it's rotating, I don't care if it's potentially one year of home field advantage as it's luck of when you draw it. I'm not opposed to Columbus hosting it every 5-10 years. I just think every year is a mistake.

I actually like the Lansing idea, especially if State is in the tournament. It will encourage more fans to show up to the game, much like the Buckeye's success lead to fans last year. That's why, while I suggest other parks, many of them have a major con of being too far from any member institutions or BigTen baseball schools (Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio State, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois would be the stronger ones, Iowa, NU, PSU, and MSU don't have sustained success recently).

Wolverine In Exile

October 26th, 2009 at 11:46 AM ^

While Dayton is almost central for a lot of Big 10 teams (1 hr for Columbus, 2.5-3 hr for MSU & UM, 1.5 hr for Purdue & Indiana, 4-5 hr for Illinois & NW), downtown Dayton is a hole, and although the stadium is nice, the hotel / nightlife / neighborhood isn't conducive to Big 10. Plus, you'd be making just as much a pro-OSU crowd as you would in Columbus.

Best suggestion from geographic / entertainment / facilities would be Indy's park, but I agree that NCAA PC-regulations would probably prohibit that from occurring.

Hemlock Philosopher

October 26th, 2009 at 12:16 PM ^

Horse crap. If the B10 wants to pre-determine the location, they can rotate it around the B10 venues or rotate it around the great minor- and major-league ballparks we have in the Midwest, as F.A. suggested.


October 26th, 2009 at 12:30 PM ^

Indy already hosts for basketball conference tourney, so the conference should have no problems putting on another event in that town. Toledo is also a great choice and both of those parks can handle any size crowd. I think it is imperative to have a NEUTRAL site for these conference championships since the Big Ten struggles to get more NCAA invites than the one auto-bid every year. Just giving away that home-field to tOSU every year really takes a lot of emphasis of the regular season (besides having to finish 6th or better to have a shot)