Students at East Carolina University have many athletic attractions within the state of North Carolina with its several professional and collegiate sports teams. Now, a grassroots movement is trying to give ECU students something else to be excited about in their state, Major League Baseball.
That grassroots movement is the Charlotte Bats, which is committed to getting an MLB expansion team awarded to Charlotte, North Carolina. The man behind the movement is Rick Curti, the founder and CEO of the Charlotte Bats. The mascot comes from the former minor league baseball team, the Greensboro Bats.
The possible MLB franchise adds up to something ECU students can be very excited about. Some students, such as junior business major Justin Bowen, are already seeing the potential benefits.
“That would be awesome. You know ideally I’d love to see an MLB team east of (NC Highway) 95 but I know Charlotte’s a much better fit,” Bowen said. “NC already has several top-tier college baseball programs and a lot of minor league teams so you know the fan base is there and would support it. With the baseball environment we have around here, I think it’d be a natural fit.”
Bowen added, “It’d be great to have a MLB team to root for in our home state, not to mention the revenue it would bring in for the city and state would be a bonus, especially after we lost those NCAA championship games a few years back.”
Payton Galloway, a sophomore health service management major, is a huge baseball fan. Galloway said she went to every single home ECU baseball game this past season, even if it meant sitting through rain delays or blowout games. Galloway loves the idea of a pro baseball team in Charlotte for many reasons as well.
Galloway said she’d love to see an ECU baseball player one day get drafted by the potential Charlotte MLB team and play in North Carolina.
“I definitely believe that Charlotte should have a major league baseball team,” Galloway said. “It’s the only major franchise missing in North Carolina. We have the Panthers and the Hornets in Charlotte and the Hurricanes in Raleigh. With the right marketing, Charlotte would be very capable of supporting an MLB team like St. Louis, Milwaukee, and other major league cities. Greenville, North Carolina is such a baseball town that bringing in an MLB team would draw in many ECU students and fans.”
Curti has just one blanket statement for why ECU students should be excited about the possibility.
“I want to tell the wonderful people of ECU that our team represents everyone in the state,” Curti said. “All schools and people. People can take a day trip to Charlotte or have a day where we can appreciate our students. Maybe throw out the first pitch? So many possibilities!”
Curti said the city of Charlotte already has a NFL, NBA and a growing need for a MLB team.
Curti said he started the Charlotte Bats about six years ago. Curti said sports are a great source of revenue for the state. He added the Bats would “bring jobs, bring hundreds of millions to our state and provide a fun family atmosphere for everyone.”
Beyond the added revenue, Curti said he is passionate about North Carolina, and believes Charlotte is an ideal choice for a team. Curti added Charlotte is the best choice because of the support and success of other teams in the area have had, such as the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Hornets.
Curti also referenced the city’s minor league baseball team, the Charlotte Knights. The Knights have led all minor league baseball teams in attendance four out of the last five years, according to Curti.
Despite all this, there is skepticism surrounding Curti’s idea. Many cities in the country and some even outside of the United States would like to have a MLB team and have groups advocating for it. However, Curti said this situation is different because the city of Charlotte is already on the MLB’s radar.
“What makes this so different is that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred put the city of Charlotte on a short list for future expansion,” Curti said.
Curti said the Bats sell its own merchandise and are always expanding. Curti said he has been in contact with Manfred and has sent the commissioner Bats’ merchandise. Curti has also been in contact with people within the MLB as well as reporters who cover it, pushing hard in all aspects to make the Bats’ movement a reality.