In the world of minor league sports, teams will do almost anything to gain attention or to remain relevant.
But what if said team never actually gets to take the field but still wants to live on in the hearts and minds of the fans it never had?
That is exactly what the failed Amarillo Lone Stars are trying to do this season, playing out an entire season on Facebook using fictional players and made up games.
It’s even crazier than it sounds. Before we get into how the team is doing this, let’s get into why the “team” is doing this.
Amarillo is a town with a storied but troubled baseball tradition. Teams date back into the 1940s, and were even affiliated with Double-A baseball and the Texas League into the 1980s with the Amarillo Gold Sox.
But since the 80s the city has had problems keeping teams in the city, mainly due to stadium issues and the classic minor league story of owners not having any money after a few seasons.
Most recently, Amarillo was represented by the Amarillo Thunderheads of the independent American Association from 2010 to 2015. In 2016 the team merged with the Grand Prairie Air Hogs, playing half its games in Amarillo and the other half in Grand Prairie.
Well, following the 2016 season the owner of the team, who owned both Amarillo and Grand Prairie, decided they weren’t going to play anymore baseball in Amarillo because the field at the stadium was so bad, that teams in the American Association threatened to boycott games there. So the Thunderheads/Air Hogs up and left, leaving Amarillo and Potter County Memorial Stadium without a team for the 2017 season.
But baseball in the city appeared to be saved when the Pecos League (mainly in the Southwest and probably the 4th tier of independent pro baseball) said they were very interested in Amarillo.
It made sense for the league and the city. Amarillo is almost the dead middle of Pecos League territory, and it would give the city a team to watch while the city worked on a potential new stadium downtown that would house an affiliated team.
The Pecos League went ahead and started a team website, got in trouble for stealing the City of Amarillo’s logo, changed the logo, then advertised on its own website that the league was coming to town and even saying it was the greatest day in the history of the league, or something like that. They even made a Facebook page.
The team had links on its site for season tickets, individual game tickets, merchandise and everything else that you can think a team might need when it is starting up and looking to keep fans interested.
Only there was one problem: They didn’t have an agreement with the city to take over the lease for Potter County Stadium from the owners of the Air Hogs. And the city and former owners weren’t just going to give it to them and let them play for free without making necessary upgrades to the field and facilities.
To make a long story short, the Lone Stars never did make a deal, and so ended the dream of having a team in Amarillo. Instead, they gave the lease to a local religious high school who uses it for its home baseball games and has the kids come out and take care of it. Keep in mind this stadium holds about 8,000 people, or about 7,920 more than come to most high school baseball games.
But the team lives on on Facebook, and for some reason has decided that playing out a season of made-up games on Facebook is better than no team at all. Here’s the first post hinting at what was coming.
That’s right made-up internet baseball fans, tickets to the entire season are free! What a bargain.
And then things got even more sad, as the team announced a pretend deal to upgrade the stadium, because when you’re already made a fake team that doesn’t actually exist, what’s $24 million in fake money for a 4th tier independent minor league baseball team?
And then they went all-in on the gimmick and told fans what they were planning: That the entire season would be played out with a fake roster, playing “real” teams in fake games that will be posted online, box score and all.
On April 3 after what was probably a rigorous spring training, the team went ahead and announced a roster, complete with a few players you might recognize from baseball history!
And so that’s where we’re at today, with exactly one week until the Amarillo Lone Stars take the digital field and begin their drive towards a fake Pecos League championship. I have no idea why someone would go through all this trouble of making up daily game reports and linescores, but who am I to judge.
We’ll be sure to keep you up to date on everything that happens with the Lone Stars this season, from the first pitch to the last out. It’s one week until fake baseball season starts, get excited.