The one and only Nolan Ryan is such a fan of Round Rock, its minor league baseball and the greater Austin lifestyle that he wondered why his son would want to leave it. Even for the big leagues.
"That was my big question," Ryan told CultureMap when his son Reid Ryan was named president of the Houston Astros earlier this summer, which meant leaving a similar position with the Round Rock Express. "If he'd be willing to give up Round Rock and the life he and his family had there.
"He had a pretty good setup."
The Express' attendance figures — the club routinely ranks near the top in overall Minor League Baseball attendance — seem to indicate the same thing.
SportsBusiness puts Austin-Round Rock at 152 out of 229 markets, behind towns like Little Falls, N.J., Sauget, Ill. and Erie, Pa.
But none of that — the endorsement of a legend/owner, the big crowd numbers or even the fact that Forbes magazine recently ranked the Express the second most valuable franchise in all of minor league baseball — could prevent the Austin area from being dismissed in the SportsBusiness Journal's new rankings of America's minor league markets.
SportsBusiness puts Austin-Round Rock at 152 out of 229 markets, placing it behind towns like Little Falls, N.J., Sauget, Ill. and Erie, Pa. in minor league sports power. Sauget, Ill.? The town that touts its 24-hour liquor store as one of its major tourist attractions? Over Austin-Round Rock?
Sure, the Austin Toros may not have exactly sent the city into a frenzy, but dozens of the markets ranked above Austin-Round Rock only have one minor league team — and many are below the Express' Triple A level.
SportsBusiness (perhaps wisely) does not explain the reasoning behind its rankings.