Despite many New Orleans sports fans firmly planting their heads underground like defective Who Dat ostriches, deaf to anything other than football in the football-less months, the 2013 baseball season opens tonight. Amid the stirrings of the dozen matchups is a news item that hits, or strikes, or puns closer to home: the possible move of New Orleans' minor league heroes.
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane told MLB.com that he's considering some Triple A franchises for Houston, including the New Orleans Zephyrs. (Crane said the team would move to the suburbs in The Woodlands or Conroe, which could mean a new stadium and/or moving existing minor league teams.)
The Astros' current Triple A farm team is the Oklahoma City RedHawks, a deal that runs through 2014. Terrance Harris at NOLA.com reported that if they made the move, the Zephyrs would possibly have to break their lease with SMG that runs through Sept. 30, 2016.
Not just a good place to drink on a Thursday or catch mini Lady Gaga, Zephyr Field is the odd relative of New Orleans sports landmarks, a testament to America's pastime — "the shrine on Airline" — and one rich with history.
The team was founded in 1993 — the first professional baseball team in the city since the New Orleans Pelicans, which played from 1887 to 1960 (with a short-lived revival as a farm team to the St. Louis Cardinals in the '70s). The then-Denver Zephyrs first played at the University of New Orleans, and in 1997, the team moved into their own (nearly $30 million) stadium on Airline Drive. In 2008, the team became the Triple A affiliate of the Miami Marlins (which incidentally smoked them in an exhibition game shutout last weekend). In 2011, the team introduced the "fleur de Z" logo.