Major League Baseball approved the sale of part of the New Orleans Zephyrs from Don Beaver to Lou Schwechheimer, Schwechheimer said.
“We have been approved by the Pacific Coast League and Minor League Baseball, and Friday we received a letter from Major League Baseball, from the Commissioner’s office, that we have their blessing, as well,” Schwechheimer said.
Schwechheimer, who was part-owner of the Pawtucket Red Sox for 30 years, would not disclose the percentage of the Zephyrs he purchased, but a Minor League Baseball source familiar with the sale said it was “a controlling interest.”
Schwechheimer, 55, who helped build the Pawtucket, Rhode Island, franchise into a minor league model, will run the Zephyrs, he said.
“Don and I are partners, and I will be the man on the ground running the day-to-day operations of the franchise,” he said. “I’m coming next week, and I will stay a couple of months working with (General Manager) Mike Schline and the staff on some things.”
Beaver bought the Class AAA, Pacific Coast League Zephyrs from Rob Couhig on Feb. 11, 2000. Over the years, there were reports of interest from potential purchasers who wanted to move the team. Asked if he was going to keep the Zephyrs in New Orleans, Schwechheimer said, “Absolutely.”
“New Orleans is a world-class community, and I like challenges,” he said. “Our goal is to make New Orleans one of the top three franchises in all of Minor League Baseball in a couple of years, and we’re going to work tirelessly to make that happen.”
In 2014, Schwechheimer sold his interest in the Pawtucket team, which also is Triple-A and plays in the International League, to the parent Boston Red Sox. The Pawtucket Red Sox had a run of 15 consecutive years in which they were among the top of the Minor Leagues in attendance.
“The Red Sox had bought their Single-A team in Salem, Virginia, and really wanted their Triple A team in Pawtucket because of its proximity to Fenway Park,” he said. “We had an ownership group of three, and one of our owners died. I looked at the fruits of our labor, and we had an amazing run. But, it was time to turn the keys over to the (Boston) Red Sox.”
He said the reports of others looking to buy the Zephyrs stoked an interest that had been planted in 1979 by New Orleanian Barry Butera, a former Tulane standout who played for Pawtucket when Schwechheimer was a 19-year-old intern.
“He kept telling me about the passion for baseball in New Orleans,” Schwechheimer said. “I look it at, and LSU draws 10,000 fans a game, Tulane draws crowds.
“New Orleans is a great city, the most resilient in the world. I wanted to be part of that.”
The Louisiana Sports and Expedition District taking over maintenance of Zephyr Field will help move things forward, he said.
“We want to provide an amazing fan experience in a gleaming stadium,” he said.