Hartman: Selig takes pride in MLB's attendance growth

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 2, 2012 - 1:08 PM

The baseball commissioner was in town this week and reflected on interest in the game and its robust revenues.

While other professional sports have suffered some attendance losses the past couple of years, Major League Baseball continues to show increases including this year, according to Bud Selig. The baseball commissioner was here Tuesday to set the stage for the 2012 Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) World Series that brought some 500 young baseball players to the Twin Cities.

Selig is not only the man behind baseball's attendance success but also was largely responsible for this area not losing the Twins.

Yes, a lot of people were responsible for keeping the Twins here while the battle to get a new stadium built was going on, but Selig used his power as commissioner to make sure the Twins stayed in Minneapolis.

After the 2001 season, a lot of the owners wanted to eliminate two franchises, including the Twins, so they wouldn't have to contribute to the $25 million in revenue sharing the Twins were receiving during the last few years they played at the Metrodome. Some of those owners told me personally that Selig refused to give up on this city's ability to eventually get a new stadium.

Despite the Twins' poor 44-60 record, they will draw at least 2.7 million to Target Field, and maybe 100,000 more than that. Overall, Major League Baseball went over 48 million in paid attendance this week. According to Selig, that's the earliest MLB has exceeded the 48 million mark.

"The last eight years have been the eight greatest years in baseball attendance, the last five years have been remarkable and we're going to show an increase this year," Selig said. "I mean, an absolutely enormous year in terms of attendance and revenue, and we have great races going."

Selig was asked if he ever considers how he'll be viewed historically as commissioner in light of all the recent positive news about the game.

"I'm a history buff," he said. "I'm a kid who wanted to be a history professor, so I'm going to let historians go through and do all that. But [I would not have believed it] if somebody would have told me back in 1992 that this sport's gross revenues would have grown from $1 [billion], $2 [billion] to this year $7.8 billion, and attendance would be where the average team is going to draw 2.5-2.8 [million] -- think about that, the average team."

As a baseball fan, I would like to see a return to the balanced schedule, in which the Yankees, Red Sox and the other AL East teams played more than one series at Target Field each season, but Selig said there isn't any hope of that happening. He believes the present system, in which teams play more games in their own division, is the way to go.

"You have to win your division," he said. "The Minnesota Twins have got to play the White Sox and the Tigers and Cleveland and Kansas City more often. That's what has produced the record attendance. In September, for instance, when all the teams are battling, they'll be playing teams in their own division. So the answer is, 'Not as long as I'm commissioner.'"

Selig is a big fan of the Twin Cities to way back when Milwaukee was in the American Association with St. Paul and Minneapolis. Look for him to announce in the near future that Target Field has been awarded the 2014 All-Star Game.

Stadium reps coming

If there is a disagreement between the Vikings and the newly created Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority on decisions regarding the new Vikings stadium, the team and the stadium authority each will have two additional representatives who will meet to resolve the issue. Those representatives will be named shortly.

The reason for these appointments is to make sure the stadium works for the public and that the building can be adapted for baseball, basketball and soccer as well as be used by the Vikings and their fans.

This week, the Vikings are expected to announce their two representatives. The law firm of Briggs and Morgan will be considered one; Jim Cima, who will be the team's senior project manager on the stadium, is the other. Cima was the owners rep for the Philadelphia Eagles when they built Lincoln Financial Field, and he was the owners rep for the New Jersey Devils when they built Prudential Center. The Vikings will likely introduce Cima to the stadium authority on Friday.

Jottings

• The decision isn't final, according to Twins officials, but odds are strong that KTWN, the FM radio station the Pohlad family bought for $28 million in 2007 and has been trying to sell, will carry Twins broadcasts next year and beyond. The word at Hubbard Broadcasting, owner of KSTP, is that it is unlikely 1500-AM will carry Twins broadcasts beyond this season.

• Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is in London, where he is looking forward to watching four of his basketball players perform for Team USA in the Olympics -- the Wolves' Kevin Love on the men's side and the Lynx's Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore on the women's side.

• The Buccaneers signed former Gophers linebacker Nate Triplett, who was on the Colts active roster for part of last season. Triplett, a fifth-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2010, has played in eight games over two seasons, mainly on special teams, recording four tackles.

• Former Gophers catcher Dan Wilson was inducted in the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame on Saturday, along with former ace Randy Johnson. Wilson caught for 12 seasons with Seattle, hitting .262 with 88 homers and 508 RBI from 1994 to 2005.

• Gophers linebacker Brendan Beal, the transfer from Florida who missed most of last year because of a knee problem, has been cleared to practice. Two other outstanding players who missed spring practice because of concussions -- offensive linemen Josh Campion and Jimmy Gjere -- have passed their physicals and will bid for starting positions.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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