By Brett Dolan

Baseball most certainly is a game of numbers. Wins and losses, batting averages and ERA’s, franchise values and payrolls.

It has not been a good week for the local nine in the last two categories. Even before batting averages and ERA’s will be counted for real, the Astros were calculated to have the lowest payroll in the game by the Associated Press and were one of just three major league franchises (also the Mets and Marlins) to have its’ value decrease from last year.

Don’t feel too sad, the Astros are still appraised at 530 million dollars. The Rangers on the other hand, are valued at $825 million.

Now that both of the Texas teams are in the same division, in a sense they are also battling for television eye balls, tickets and those out of town fans who might be willing to spend a weekend in one ballpark rather than the other. That competition will continue this weekend in San Antonio.

Friday night and Saturday afternoon the Astros and Rangers will take part in one of the most innovative and creative sports marketing concepts in the seventh largest city in the country and also the largest without a major league team. The Alamodome will host the “spring-training” contests and if the weekend improves upon last year’s attendance, almost 80,000 people could attend major league exhibition games in a football stadium.

The concept was started last year by Ryan-Sanders Baseball and it allowed the Rangers to launch the ultimate P.R. crusade in what has long been a huge Astros market. This year the Astros replace the Padres as the Rangers opponent potentially adding more interest to an event that got off to a spectacular start in 2013.

San Antonio has long been a destination sports city, hosting N.C.A.A Regionals and Final Fours in addition to bowl games a stone’s throw from the Riverwalk. But hosting baseball is such a unique venue has challenges, namely the configuration. The right field foul pole will be only 271 feet away, although with a 16-foot wall. If the fans turn out in droves and the ballpark allows for a sense of normalized play, it could put San Antonio in line to host other major baseball events such as a World Baseball Classic qualifier.

In the meantime, the Astros can enjoy some regular season type crowds in exhibition games before they have to start keeping track of the outcomes for real.

Oh, by the way, the team with the second largest MLB payroll and the highest franchise value ($2.5 billion), the New York Yankees, will be at Minute Maid Park Tuesday night when the 2014 season gets underway.



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