Who’s on first? ASU baseball now moving to Phoenix Muni

It looks like Stomper may be cleaning out his locker at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.  If the latest plans for a new home for Arizona State baseball materialize, Sparky is going to want to use it to store his pitch fork.

The well-known ASU mascot and his baseball colleagues have reportedly drawn up plans to move into Phoenix Muni in the not-too-distant future.  According to an article in The Arizona Republic, ASU officials have asked the Board of Regents to approve a move from their current on-campus home at Packard Stadium to the Muni, which is located  a couple of miles from the Tempe campus.

Stomper (whose full name is Stomper Ele Phant – for anyone who really cares), the elephant-themed mascot of the Oakland Athletics who has been entertaining visitors to A’s games since opening night of the 1997 season, won’t have to move out of his spring-training home right away, even if the board approves the proposal at next week’s meeting.  The Sun Devils wouldn’t begin playing at the 8,000-seat stadium until the 2015 college season.

Sparky, who replaced the Bulldog as ASU’s mascot in 1946, will actually be bringing a trident with him to his new home at Phoenix Muni.  In recent years, his trademark weapon has come to be thought of as a pitch fork.  (Too much trivia?)

The Athletics are moving to Hohokam Stadium in Mesa when their lease expires at the end of 2014.  Hohokam will become vacant because the Chicago Cubs are moving out of that home and into a brand new stadium they are building at Mesa’s Riverview Park near Loop 202.

So here’s the scorecard: the Cubs move, then the Athletics move, and then the Sun Devils get to make their move.

Sounds a little bit like the hilarious old Abbott and Costello routine, “Who’s on first?”

Actually it’s the old domino effect and, if all the tiles fall right, it should be a good deal for everyone involved.

While it can certainly be scored as a win for ASU because the school won’t have to pay for a major $20 million-plus renovation needed at Packard Stadium, which the baseball program has called home for almost 40 years, it is actually ‘Plan B’.

‘Plan A’ played out last year when ASU made an attempt to partner with the Cubs in order to share their new state-of-the-art showcase stadium, but couldn’t get the deal finalized.  Relations between the school and the Cubs’ organization turned sour last summer and negotiations broke off in November.

The original plan was a sweet deal for the Devils, getting to use the new stadium rent-free until ticket sales, parking, and concessions generated a million dollars.  And, just as important, it would have made an indelible impression on the young minds of potential recruits.

Municipal Stadium isn’t the Taj Mahal the Cubs will be living in, but it is a major-league facility and would double the seating capacity they have now.  The stadium was built in 1964, but underwent major renovations in 2003 to modernize its appeal to local fans and out-of-state visitors.

But some of the history that goes with the venerable old stadium will pass down to the university, perhaps to be used in future recruiting pitches.  For example, the light poles around the field came from the famous Polo Grounds in New York…and one of the most revered players in Major League lore, Willie Mays, hit the first spring-training home run at Muni.

ASU actually used the stadium shortly after it was built, playing some tournament and regular-season games there in the mid-60’s.

Based on the details of the proposed 25-year lease, as outlined in the Republic article, the overall deal is similar to the failed attempt with the Cubs.  ASU would enjoy a rent-free stay until the revenue from tickets, concessions, and parking hit $1.1 million.

Evidently this state’s largest university found it much easier negotiating with its neighbors than it did with the big boys from Chicago.