Don Mattingly was a Yankees legend and now he has attached his legacy to more history as he contributes his baseball savvy and connections to Black Ace Dave Stewart’s push to break the glass ceiling in baseball for Black owners.
Mattingly, the Toronto Blue Jays bench coach, will serve as an advisor to the Nashville Stars, a group headed by former pitching star and general manager Stewart that seeks to become MLB’s next expansion franchise.
Stewart was known as “Smoke” during a playing career that netted him multiple All-Star appearances and three World Series titles. Now Stewart wants to bring some of that smoke to the Nashville area by leading a group to bring an MLB franchise to Tennessee. Stewart was selected to lead Music City Baseball’s diverse equity ownership initiative.
Mattingly will remain the Blue Jays bench coach in addition to advising the Nashville expansion effort.
The Nashville Stars, the favorites to land MLB's next expansion franchise, bring in another baseball legend: former MVP and veteran manager Don Mattingly. Mattingly will be a baseball advisor in the group led by Dave Stewart, the former three-time World Series champion and GM.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 9, 2023
“The approach that Dave Stewart and his team have in Nashville is exactly what the game of baseball needs. I am glad to see MLB taking an active approach on these important issues. We need more diversity in the game, and it starts from the top-down,” Mattingly said in a statement to MLB guru Bob Nightengale.
The former New York Yankees All-Star joined the Blue Jays as bench coach on John Schneider’s staff in late November. The array of offensive talent on the team will surely be upgraded by Mattingly’s wisdom and mastery of the craft as one of the most explosive hitters of the 80s before a back injury curtailed his Hall of Fame chances.
What Teams Did Don Mattingly Manager?
The 61-year-old icon served as Los Angeles Dodgers manager from 2011 to 2015 and then led the Miami Marlins through a rocky rebuild from 2016 until last season. He and Miami parted ways after a 69-93 season in which the franchise missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Donnie Baseball has had success as a skipper. He made four straight playoff appearances with Dodgers, losing in the NLCS twice. In 2020, Mattingly won the National League’s Manager of the Year Award, helping the Marlins reach the playoffs for just the third time in franchise history.
Who Are The Nashville Stars?
In conjunction with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City and named after the Negro Leagues team that played in Nashville from the late 1930s to the early 1950s, the Stars group seeks to “secure Major League Baseball approval of an expansion franchise in Nashville.”
Their website describes themselves “an organization of Nashville business, sports, music and community leaders” who are “committed to bringing a Major League Baseball franchise to the city of Nashville as a central piece of a mixed-use, multi-themed family, sports, and entertainment district.”
In 2018, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred named Nashville as a possible destination for MLB expansion and said this past summer he would “love” to expand to 32 teams.
The Forbidden Fruit: Black Ownership In Baseball
The historical ramifications of a deal like this are unprecedented. Black majority ownership should be a goal for MLB. Moreover, there hasn’t been expansion in close to 25 years when Arizona and Tampa Bay joined the fray in 1998.
A group led by 3x World Series champion Dave Stewart is preparing a $2 billion bid for an MLB expansion franchise in Nashville, per @ESPN.
The proposed 'Nashville Stars' would become the first majority minority-owned team in MLB history. pic.twitter.com/wAjKK6eU9P
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) April 20, 2022
But a barrier-breaking deal of this magnitude is never smooth sailing. Before Nashville gets their franchise, there’s some house cleaning that commissioner Rob Manfred and baseball executives have to deal with. Oakland and Tampa Bay are coming to the end of stadium commitments and could be looking for new homes.
Stewart shared his feelings on the ongoing process with ESPN back in April.
“I spoke to the commissioner a couple of weeks ago and the same thing still remains,” Stewart told ESPN. “ There are two teams that don’t have homes: the Oakland A’s and the Tampa Rays, so those are his priorities to make sure those places have homes to play in. But once they do, expansion becomes next on the agenda”.
Baseball Has No Black Majority Owners
The only other minority owners in baseball to date have been NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson who owns a two percent stake in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Derek Jeter, who had a four percent stake in the Miami Marlins. He left the organization last offseason.
It should be no surprise that Stewart is pioneering a move like this. After retiring from the game as one of the most intimidating pitchers of his era, he served as a pitching coach for the San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers before emerging as an assistant general manager with the Toronto Blue Jays. From 2012-16, he made history as the first Black general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Stewart expects his group to raise $2 billion for the purchase of the expansion team with the proposed name of the Nashville Stars after the 1940’s and 50’s team of the Negro Leagues.
Not only is the group trying to remind baseball fans of past Negro League glory, but they are making the Negro Leagues a part of the future by bringing the Negro Leagues Museum into the group as a partner. Baseball is looking for the same success as the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and NHL’s Nashville Predators.
Meet our Team! We want to highlight Bob Kendrick, @NLBMuseumKC President and one of our Board members. We’re honored to have Bob as not only an important partner, but as a strong supporter and friend of the Nashville Stars. pic.twitter.com/SpYevOZ0CF
— Nashville Stars ⚾️ (@NashvilleStars) February 24, 2022
Speaking of the Titans, Hall of Fame running back Eddie George who is the current head football coach at Tennessee State is also a part of the team.
“We started this process four years ago, Nashville is a fast growing city. It has a beautiful population of people.“ Stewart said. “There’s so much going on here. So, MLB put Nashville as one of its top places for expansion, and I think that triggered the idea to go down this path.”
The lists of power names are growing as they try to push this historical moment to fruition.
Would love to see him involved with the Nashville Stars – a proposed majority minority ownership MLB expansion team led by #worldseries #MVP Dave Stewart, former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales & @JohnLoar. @NashvilleStars @Dsmoke34 #justsayin
— SMPLonnie (@SMPLonnie) October 29, 2022
With this process, including a working relationship with Tennessee State University, one of the more well-known HBCUs in the country, this movement has Jackie Robinson’s dream of equality in baseball moving incrementally closer to a reality.