For years, many residents of the Austin area bemoaned the lack of a major-league sports team. This year, Major League Soccer franchise Austin FC filled that void.
However, speculation continues regarding which major-league sport might be the next to establish a presence in Central Texas. Two members of Texas baseball royalty — Drayton McLane and Reid Ryan — have gone to bat for a potential Major League Baseball team that would serve the Austin and San Antonio markets. In 2017, the Next Generation Baseball website identified Austin and San Antonio as two of the 10 North American markets that are in line for an MLB franchise.
McLane, former owner of the Houston Astros, tells Texas Monthly that he believes an MLB team in Central Texas would be “a good idea.” However, McLane believes this won’t be a possibility for another 10 years. In other words, you’ve got plenty of time to save up for season tickets.
Texas Monthly writer Richard Justice suggests that McLane may be underplaying the viability of an MLB franchise in the Austin-San Antonio corridor by saying the region “will grow into” the likelihood of landing a franchise. Today, the combined population of the Austin and San Antonio metro areas is approaching 5 million.
“The Interstate 35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio is booming,” Justice points out, “and a ballpark accessible to both cities would make the area more appealing than several current MLB cities.”
Justice resurrects a long-held belief that San Marcos might be “the perfect accessible-to-both-cities spot for a ballpark.” However, there’s the big-league question of who’d pay for a stadium that could cost more than $1 billion to build.
McLane says he won’t lead an effort to secure an MLB team for the Austin-San Antonio corridor. However, retired MLB pitching legend Nolan Ryan and his family could be drafted to spearhead such an effort. The Ryans own the Round Rock Express minor league baseball team and formerly owned the Corpus Christi Hooks minor league baseball team.
Reid Ryan, the oldest of Nolan’s sons, tells Texas Monthly that the Austin-San Antonio corridor could support an MLB team in terms of the fan base. But the decision to locate an MLB franchise in the region “really comes down to the economics behind it,” Reid Ryan says. An Austin-San Antonio team would be the third MLB team in Texas, joining the Astros and the Texas Rangers.
Ryan isn’t committing just yet to fielding an MLB team for Austin-San Antonio, though.
“We’ve pioneered professional baseball in this market for over 20 years. I’ve got a lot of experience. My dad has a lot of experience,” Ryan says. “Yeah, we’d be a natural fit, and we’d be honored to do it. And I’d love to do it. But does that mean it’s a reality? … The reality of something like this happening is probably a lot further away than most fans ever realize.”