Former All-Star pitcher and three-time World Series champion Dave Stewart is leading a group seeking to obtain an MLB franchise in Nashville, Tennessee, that would be the first majority minority-owned team in major league history.
Music City Baseball appointed Stewart to lead its diverse equity ownership initiative designed to land a big league team for baseball’s next round of expansion, likely with the next three to five years, according to both Stewart and MLB sources.
Expansion is a priority for baseball, which hasn’t added teams in nearly a quarter-century, when Arizona and Tampa Bay joined in 1998. Before MLB can expand, however, commissioner Rob Manfred has stated that it must first resolve stadium issues in Oakland and Tampa Bay. Neither city has long-term stadium commitments in their respective cities. Tampa Bay once pursued a joint Montreal-Tampa Bay solution that was rejected by Manfred, while A’s owner John Fisher has made a public bid to attempt to relocate to Las Vegas while pursuing a new ballpark in Oakland.
“I spoke to the commissioner a couple of weeks ago and the same thing still remains,” Stewart, who played parts of eight seasons in Oakland and helped the team win a World Series in 1989, told ESPN on Tuesday. “There are two teams that don’t have homes: the Oakland A’s and the Tampa Rays, so those are his priorities to make sure those places have homes to play in. But once they do, expansion becomes next on the agenda.”
A majority minority-owned team in baseball would be not only a historic first but also the culmination of a quest for Stewart, who has pursued ownership in the past with the Miami Marlins and the A’s. Several high-profile Black former players have pursued ownership in the sport in past decades, including the late Hall of Famers Henry Aaron and Joe Morgan as well as Reggie Jackson. NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson owns a 2% stake in the Los Angeles Dodgers, and before relinquishing his interest in the Marlins, Derek Jeter reportedly had a 4% equity stake in the team.
Stewart said his group, which includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, expects to raise $2 billion to purchase an expansion team.
The proposed name of the franchise is the Nashville Stars, replicating the Negro Leagues team that made the city its home in the 1940s and 1950s. Nashville has become increasingly attractive for baseball based on the success of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and the NHL’s Nashville Predators.
The plan also includes mixed-use development, market-rate housing and a relationship with the legendary historically Black college Tennessee State University. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, located in Kansas City, is also a partner with Stewart’s group on the project.
“We started this process four years ago. Nashville is a fast-growing city. It has a beautiful population of people,” Stewart said. “There’s so much going on here. So, MLB put Nashville as one of its top places for expansion, and I think that triggered the idea to go down this path.”