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Big 12 baseball: Tournament future in Oklahoma City not as certain as it once was

While conference officials once labeled this “The Home of the Big 12 Baseball Tournament,” lately, the tone has changed. The property is for sale.
by John Helsley Published: May 25, 2013

Tim Brassfield deflects adversity like a hockey goaltender.

Tornado fallout. Rain delays. Late-night games.

Kick save.

Next up: tournament poachers.

And Brassfield might need his mask for this.

Yep, it's that time again, with Brassfield and his All Sports Association in the spot of defending their turf, with bids already in for future Big 12 Baseball Tournament host rights and hopeful suitors lined up to challenge Oklahoma City's stronghold on the event.

While conference officials once labeled this “The Home of the Big 12 Baseball Tournament,” lately, the tone has changed.

The property is for sale.

“We've got one more year in Oklahoma City and it's open to bid to determine where it is after that,” said Big 12 associate commissioner Bob Burda. “There are other cities interested.

“And Oklahoma City is obviously a strong option, as a longtime anchor for the tournament and a long history of doing it right.”

Brassfield, executive director of the hosting All Sports Association, has fended off attacks before, mostly successfully.

Oklahoma City has hosted the tournament 15 times in a 17-year period, and 38 times in 40 years dating back to the old Big Eight days. Those other two years, in 2002 and 2004, it was played at The Ballpark in Arlington, an experience that almost everyone involved considered a disappointment, prompting a return to Oklahoma City.

Still, Brassfield takes nothing for granted.

“Any time you have competition, you need to consider it as a real threat,” Brassfield said. “There are people who see what this is, which is a great event. And they value it.

“So do we.”

This, by all accounts, is a real threat.

Other cities reportedly in play: up the turnpike in Tulsa, and south of the Red River, in Round Rock and Frisco, Texas. Sources, however, indicate that Frisco can be scratched, since Mandalay Baseball Properties, which owns the RedHawks, also owns the franchise there and is said to favor the tournament remaining in Oklahoma City.

For the record, most of the league's coaches favor the tournament remaining.

“I love Oklahoma City,” said Kansas coach Ritch Price. “I think the RedHawks treat us first class. It's a gorgeous ballpark, the setting's fabulous. The players can walk to restaurants and the hotel, walk to the ballpark.”

Texas Tech's Tim Tadlock: “I think Oklahoma City is a great venue and we'd love to keep it here. The surface is a great surface to play on. It's a great situation because of hotels. It usually gets buzzing down here pretty good in the evenings. The night games are a lot of fun; they're all a lot of fun.”

Coaches are all but unanimous in detailing what's right about Oklahoma City as host.

The Bricktown setup is unparalleled in this region, with restaurants and other sources of entertainment — as well as Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark — all in walking distance of the downtown team hotels. For every team except West Virginia, Oklahoma City is a six- or seven-hour bus ride.

The Brick is a premium facility. And the support personnel surrounding the tournament is well-versed and experienced in hospitality.

So, what's the downside?

Fan support.

Blame it on the Thunder or Oklahoma State's recent-year struggles or 9 a.m. start times, but attendance for the tournament is lacking.

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by John Helsley
OSU Reporter Sr.
John Helsley grew up in Del City, reading all the newspapers and sports magazines he could get his hands on. And Saturday afternoons, when the Major League Game of the Week was on, he'd keep a scorecard for the game. So the sports appeal was was...
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