Thursday April, 24, 2014 will go down as a historic day for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters.
The Skeeters, one of the premier Atlantic League clubs, announced on Friday that they signed a minor league baseball agreement with ESPN who will "gain the exclusive rights to place games on its digital and television networks", according to a press release on the Skeeters website.
To put into words what this means for independent baseball is very difficult. Indy baseball has long stood in the shadows of Major League Baseball and even Minor League Baseball, but the exposure it has gained over the past couple of years has done wonders.
The Sugar Land Skeeters can be credited for bringing the game to more people than expected. Even though they have only been in existence for two years, over 840,000 fans have seen games at Constellation Field, including 465,000 in 2012.
When fans go to Skeeters games they witness the best that the indy game can offer. The players taking the field are former professionals (Jason Lane), potential Hall of Famers (Roger Clemems) and pitchers who were left for dead before getting their final shot to make an impression (Scott Kazmir).
72 games will be available on "WatchESPN.com and SugarLandSkeeters.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and streamed on televisions through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV."
According to senior Executive Producer Don Graham, viewers will have behind the scenes access the likes no one has ever seen.
"Under the direction of newly-appointed Executive Producer Don Graham, viewers will gain behind-the-scenes access to Skeeters game action as the club becomes the first professional minor league baseball team to showcase full-season, innovative live coverage with ESPN3. The new format will introduce fans to the individual players and coaches on the field, as well as the developing stories within the Atlantic League as Gaetti looks to repeat the team’s record-breaking success from 2013."
To say that I am excited about this is an understatement. For years, the game at the grassroots level has been knocking on the door of the mainstream. This historic agreement with ESPN gives the game instant credibility.
As Skeeters President Jon Danos said, ESPN is the Gold standard and this is monumental to the growth of their brand.
“Forging a media relationship with ESPN is a huge step in the development of our brand,” said Sugar Land Skeeters President Jon Danos. “We can now visually deliver a high quality production to our fans everywhere, which is a great opportunity given the Skeeters stories that have been told on a nation-wide stage. I think fans will love our unique approach, which will feature elements never seen before in professional baseball. ESPN is the gold standard and we're proud to be working with them.”