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Tuesday, Jul 22nd

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Looking back at 10 years of baseball

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Ballpark Digest turned 10 years old this week. To see how much things have changed -- or not -- we went back to the first set of stories published on the site. The headlines may surprise you.

This question pops up a lot, so here's the short version as to the origins of Ballpark Digest. Ten years ago I was working as executive editor at internet.com/Jupitermedia, riding that Internet wave and tech boom through an IPO, rapid growth and then subsequent crash. Given the roller-coaster business model, Jupitermedia was doing fairly well: while competitors were crashing and burning, our business was solvent -- the company still exists today under the WebMediaBrands name, and some of the people I worked with, like Alan Meckler and Chris Elwell, continue to be visionaries in the field.

I was on the road a lot during that period, so I'd combine a business trip with a ballpark visit. Dissatisfied with the Internet ballpark resources at the time, I started posting ballpark stories to my personal site, and then to an off-hours site called ballparkwatch.com. That site took off to the point where I could quit the day job and focus on the ballpark world. Since then August Publications has grown to encompass several sites and a book line, with more new stuff on the way. Not everyone can turn a passion into a full-time and profitable gig.

But the core of the company remains baseball and ballparks. We keep growing: page views are at an all-time high (last week was the best ever in BPD history). The baseball industry is one of the best in the world, filled with people full of passion and love for the game. You don't go into the baseball industry to get rich (though, if you do it right, you certainly can end up with piles of cash); you do it for the love of the game. Thanks to everyone who has turned into a loyal reader: 68 percent of Ballpark Digest readers visit the site on a daily basis, showing incredibly loyalty not found on many other Web ventures. Thanks also go to our long-time advertisers: Resnick Amsterdam LeshnerPopulous and Professional Sports Catering. You couldn't do business with a finer set of people.

Here are some of the headlines from the first few days of Ballpark Digest. Enjoy. Some of the links may work; most won't. It's been a great run, and I can't want for the next decade. -- Kevin Reichard

Montreal.com: Selig Gloomy About Expos
Yes, yes he was. It takes a great businessman to tell Montreal fans that their team is screwed: "I don't see much hope." The story ended well -- the Lerner family ended up with a new D.C. ballpark and a contending club -- but the whole demise of the Montreal Expos was a sad saga in the MLB annals.

Corpus Christi Caller: Sales Tax Increase Will Be on Ballot
Rome News-Tribune: Stadium Plans Taking Shape
Jacksonville.com: 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame'
DallasNews.com: Frisco's Minor-League Team Rides Into Town With a Name
GreenvilleOnline: Three Firms Try to Build New Baseball Stadium
We saw a whole slew of new ballparks over the last decade; ten years ago we saw the planning take place for these five facilities. All were successful; some teams, like the Greenville Drive and Frisco RoughRiders, prospered far beyond the wildest dreams of developers and team owners.

Pioneer Press: St. Paul: Ballpark Going, Going, Gone?
BayArea.com: A's to try for own East Bay stadium
At the end of the day, the Minnesota Twins moved into a new ballpark -- though not in St. Paul -- and the Oakland A's continued playing in the Coliseum. 

Red Sox Owners: New Red Sox Owners Pledge to Preserve Fenway Park
Yes, yes they did. Rather successfully: Fenway Park is a jewel among MLB ballparks and provided a blueprint for ballpark preservation. The franchise has never been in better shape, and the fans have been rewarded with successful teams on the field as well.

AP: Ballpark Village No Longer Part of Cardinals Stadium Talks
Though the new Busch Stadium did get built, the adjoining Ballpark Village did not. We may see it in the next few years, however.

Charleston River Dogs: Don't Be Part of This Crowd!
Seems like yesterday: Mike Veeck didn't allow anyone into the ballpark in an attempt to set a record for fewest fans at a game.

Detnews.com: Developer Says Bid To Renew Tiger Stadium is Batting Zero
Efforts to either renovate Tiger Stadium or bring a new minor-league team to the historic stadium met with resistance from Detroit city officials and the Tigers; at the end of the day Tiger Stadium was torn down, and an empty lot sits where the likes of Al Kaline and Denny McLain thrilled fans for almost 100 years. The inability to preserve this ballpark is perhaps the most tragic story covered on Ballpark Digest in the past 10 years.

Washington Post: County to Split Stadium Cost with Cannons 
Beloit Snappers: Feasibility Study Indicates Support for New Stadium
Tennessean.com: How Can a New Stadium for Sounds Happen Here?
UNCC: Knights Stadium Would Boost Attendance
Ten years ago Art Silber was talking new Potomac Cannons ballpark with Prince William County, the Beloit Snappers were talking new ballpark with city officials, the prior owners of the Nashville Sounds were looking at Greer Stadium replacements, and the Charlotte Knights were mapping a move into Charlotte. None of the efforts have succeeded, though it looks like new ballparks for the Potomac Nationals and Charlotte Knights will happen in the next few years. The cost of inflation: the new Cannons ballpark was budgeted at $10 million.

AP: PGE Park (Portland, Oregon) Continues Its Losing Ways
Baseball in the Rose City never did recover from the train wreck known as Portland Family Entertainment. At the end of the day, PGE Park was converted to a soccer facility, the Portland Beavers moved to Tucson and the market has been without professional baseball. 

Baltimore Business Journal: Kirk pushes baseball for two Central Pa. cities
York Newspapers: Stadium Bill Stays On Deck
Peter Kirk and Maryland Baseball LLC did end up building new ballparks in York and Lancaster. The most prolific ballpark builder ever ended up pushing new facilities in Southern Maryland and Sugar Land, Texas, as well, and we're expecting to see more ballparks down the road.

Ted Williams Dies
I had the honor of meeting Ted about 20 years ago at a trade show where he was promoting a Ted Williams CD-ROM product. He was witty, sharp, and eager to tell stories about the many outstanding players he encountered, but even at that time he was somewhat of a baseball outsider. Yeah, he could be a little hard on reporters and didn't suffer fools gladly as a player, which may be why Ted Williams never received all the plaudits he was due as perhaps the greatest player ever in Major League Baseball. 

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