On Friday, I was contacted by my friend Dave Bangert at the Lafayette Journal & Courier to offer my opinion on the city’s open bid for baseball teams to play in Lafayette. The city is rebuilding the stadium and has decided that it should open a bid process. I mailed this letter to Mayor Roswarski earlier this week.
As a long-time Lafayette resident, I appreciate your desire to ensure the city gets the best value out of the money invested into the Loeb Stadium rebuild. But as a sports fan, I know that while it may be a business, it’s not just transactional. Sports fandom is built on tradition and loyalty, and it becomes a key part of the fan’s identity.
When I was a boy, I collected baseball cards as many youngsters do. With two younger sisters, I always dreamed of having a brother. You can imagine how thrilled I was when I ended up with cards for both Cal, Jr. and Billy Ripken—brothers who played on the same team! Not much after that, Cal broke Lou Gerhig’s consecutive game streak and suddenly I was a lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan. I had never been to Baltimore, I had no family ties to Maryland. But I made a connection and a fandom was born.
Now my kids have had the chance to form their own ties with a baseball team. The Lafayette Aviators have become an important part of their summers. But they don’t have to hope their local newspaper a thousand miles away carries updates. They get to go to games with their dad. They can run the bases. They experience what makes Lafayette not just the place we live, but the place we call home.
When the Aviators came to town, summer baseball had been gone from Lafayette for almost two decades. With the town in a baseball drought and a stadium that had history and not much else to offer, this team built something that the city can be proud of. For 30 days every summer, Lafayette gets affordable, family-friendly entertainment. When they’re on the road, we have a group of young men who represent our city well across the Midwest.
In my time as a ticket holder, I’ve made friends with those I see at Loeb stadium—fellow fans, concessionaires, club management. My kids love Ace the Aviator, and frequently ask me when he can come over for dinner.
I have lived in the Lafayette area for your entire tenure as mayor, so I know you will do what you feel is best for the city. But I implore you to remember that value is more than figures in a ledger. When all of the bids are in, I hope the city will evaluate them fairly and come to the conclusion that the Aviators aren’t a team that plays in Lafayette, they’re Lafayette’s team.