EP Townsquare on MountainStar Sports: Two Outlooks, One Company
Things have to be a little strange in the offices of MountainStar Sports Group these days. Not uneasy –– both the El Paso Chihuahuas and El Paso Locomotive FC offices fully support each other –– just strange.
On the one hand, Locomotive FC is back to full team practices as the USL Championship returns to play next month.
On the other, though Major League Baseball inches closer to an abbreviated season, things are going in the opposite direction for the minor leagues, including the Chihuahuas.
Two teams within one organization, forced to deal with the novel coronavirus in different ways.
MSSG Senior Vice President and Chihuahuas general manager Brad Taylor and Locomotive FC head coach Mark Lowry were both kind enough to join El Paso Townsquare to talk about their respective sports (video: above).
Though as of this writing the USL Championship's full schedule has yet to be announced, Lowry and Locomotive FC will compete in the Western Conference's Group C as the league divides teams into four- and five-team regional pods to cut down on travel and travel expenses.
Locomotive FC's group includes defending USL Cup champion Reál Monarchs SC, which defeated Locomotive in the Western Conference finals last season, "Rio Granderby" rivals New Mexico United FC and a rejuvenated Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.
For Taylor and the Chihuahuas, much is riding on the mood of Major League Baseball's owners as to whether or not MLB wants to spend money on player development. Without the ability to draw fans at MLB's own ballparks, the picture looks bleak for MiLB.
The sad thing for baseball is that, at a time when interest in the sport is waning, MLB owners may be contemplating a reorganization of the developmental structure that could mean anything from trimming away dozens of MiLB teams to doing away with the farm system as we know it.
But any cull of the minor leagues seems like a major mistake, in part or in whole. Cutting off your nose to spite your face. With 162 full-season minor league teams across the country as opposed to the 30 major league teams, odds are it's the minors that mint more young fans.
Where would you be more likely to see kids getting to run around a baseball field, LA or El Paso?
Taylor and the Chihuahuas are certainly in a decent position to weather whatever comes down from on MLB high. Whether it's this season or next, expect the Chihuahuas to be back in action.
MountainStar Sports Group's rock-solid ownership has backed both of its US teams' front offices to the hilt. No layoffs and no furloughs mean fewer headaches for Taylor and Locomotive GM Andrew Forrest.
As for the soccer side of MSSG's equation, FC Juárez Bravos continue preparations for the team's second season in Liga MX as Locomotive FC gears up for its second campaign in the United Soccer Leagues.
Word is, MSSG's steady hand has been a guiding influence at USL headquarters in Tampa, FL. As some USL ownership groups have laid off staff, MountainStar and Locomotive FC have had no such worries.
Lowry talks in the interview about that being both a relief and a rallying point, as have a few Locomotive players.
Certainly, Lowry, Forrest and others are hoping that steady hand makes for steady feet when the USL Championship season resumes.