Take it from Gary Green. Minor league baseball is alive and well and thriving in America.
He should know. He owns three teams – the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Richmond Flying Squirrels and the Montgomery Biscuits. And just to diversify, he also owns a soccer team, Union Omaha of the United Soccer League.
Green grew up with baseball and jumped at the opportunity to purchase the Storm Chasers, the Triple A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The seller was billionaire financier Warren Buffett.
“We talked for 1½ hours,’’ Green said. “We spent the whole time talking baseball. He was testing my love and knowledge of the game. I passed the test.’’
Green soon expanded his baseball interests to Richmond and Montgomery and believes passionately in the minor league network which has survived the COVID pandemic shutdown in 2020.
“The minor leagues are where so many baseball fans first found the game and developed a love for it,’’ he said. “The teams are more competitive than ever and the game is flourishing.’’
Part of the enjoyment for minor league fans is seeing players they rooted for graduate to the major leagues. Among the Omaha franchise’s alumni are big leaguers like Zack Greinke, Mike Moustakas, Mike Minor and Whit Merrifield.
Green comes from the Bill Veeck school of baseball promotions. Veeck was the game’s original maverick, coming up with all manner of ideas to entertain the customers.
“He once said the person with the most knowledge of the game and usually the person farthest away from the field,’’ Green said. “I believe in spending time with the fans. I want to be in the mix. Make them feel part of ownership and give them access to the game. Let’s make it a party. I’m lucky to have that feeling every day of my life.’’
It is with that in mind that Green has partnered with Jet Linx Aviation in a sweepstakes contest offering to take fans on a private flight for a road game. The promotion is called “Fly Like An Owner’’ and gives fans that once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a special day, traveling to a road game just the way an owner of a team might.
Fans of the Storm Chasers and Union Omaha attending home games are automatically entered in the sweepstakes with the winners traveling on a private jet with Green for a road game.
It’s the kind of opportunity diehard and casual fans can understand. It’s the kind of opportunity Bill Veeck would understand. So does Gary Green.