HIGH POINT TO GET NEW DOWNTOWN STADIUM, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TEAM
After months — maybe even years — of secret negotiations with area businessmen and Major League Baseball, the city of High Point has announced the creation of a new professional baseball team which will play in a new stadium to be located downtown.
“This thing has been in the works for what seems like forever,” said Yuan I. Putin, the self-described “legitimate businessman” and baseball enthusiast who brokered the deal. “And believe you me, it took some pretty fancy footwork to make it happen.”
Putin says the talks began when, after a night of drinking at a High Point bar, he impulsively made a phone call to the New York Yankees organization, offering to buy the team and relocate them to the Furniture City.
“They weren’t going for it,” Putin said. “No how, no way. But after I started shouting at the guy, he gave me some phone numbers of people who might be able to green-light a new franchise.
“Honestly, I had forgotten all about it,” he continued, “but when I woke up the next morning and saw all these phone numbers scribbled on cocktail napkins, I figured I had set something in motion. This kind of thing happens to me all the time — it’s how I started my first business.”
Putin said his primary business operates on the periphery of professional and amateur sports, catering to enthusiasts who are interested in the adjusted outcomes of games. And a recent turn of events — the New Orleans Saints winning the Super Bowl — provided him with an unexpected cash windfall, enabling the final stages of the deal.
“I was pretty sure they could cover [the point spread],” Putin said, “but when they won the damn thing, many of my clients were disappointed. Worked out pretty well for me, though.”
The influx of cash, he said, enabled him to “grease the right palms, if you catch my drift. Throw enough of the green stuff at these guys and they react just like anybody else.”
Putin, who will act as general manager, concession supervisor and backup shortstop for the team, says it will be called the High Point Rocking Chairs, a nod to the city’s history as a furniture center.
“We were gonna go with the ‘Ottomans,’ the ‘Credenzas’ or something like that,” he says, “but when you get right down to it, people love rocking chairs. Don’t they?” The Rocking Chairs will play in the American League East, against such storied teams as the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Putin is not intimidated.
“What the hell?” he says. “They got nine guys with gloves and bats; we got nine guys with gloves and bats. I think we’ve got a fair shot against those clowns.”
Attracting talent to the fledgling team may be another story.
Putin says he’s already put together an incentive package for prospective players, which includes one room of free furniture per season, VIP status at the High Point Doll & Miniature Museum and free lodging for the season in one of downtown High Point’s many furniture showrooms, excepting the periods during the spring and fall, when Furniture Market takes over the district.
High Point University President Nido Quebein is willing to offer his services for the city´s new baseball team as “motivational coach”.
“Also,” Putin says, “the new stadium will be an enticement. Every ballplayer wants to play in a brand-new downtown stadium.”
High Point’s new stadium will draw again from the city’s history as the Furniture Capital of the World. It will be constructed entirely of wood, built by local carpenters and cabinet makers who have seen much of their labor outsourced to China.
“That’s the beauty of it,” Putin says. “We’ll be putting a lot of these master craftsmen back to work. Can you imagine? A grandstand made of pine. A concession ring constructed entirely from oak planks. And the façade will look like a giant, round log cabin. We’re gonna make the Greensboro and Winston-Salem ballparks look like sandlots.”
Where funding for the new stadium will come from is still unclear.
“I’m thinking we’ll get a lot of volunteer labor,” Putin says. “There’s plenty of folks here in High Point with some time on their hands. I’ve still got a little of that Saints money left. And doesn’t the city usually kick in some cash for something like this? I’m not really sure how all that works….”
For now, enthusiasm for the project seems muted. A quick poll of people on South Main Street showed that not only had nobody heard of the new team coming to town, but that nobody had ever heard of Yuan I. Putin, the proposed new stadium and, in more than a few cases, Major League Baseball.
But a few notable High Pointers like the idea. High Point University President Nido Qubein has offered his services as “motivational coach” for the team, as long as he gets an hour during the seventh-inning stretch of every game to tell the fans about HPU and all the great things happening over there. High Point native Fantasia Barrino has said she might be interested in singing the National Anthem on Opening Day if they throw in a pair of season tickets. And Putin said he wanted to invite jazz great and High Point native John Coltrane to play blasts of “Charge!” on his horn in the stands — until he found out that Coltrane was a saxophonist, and that he died more than 40 years ago.
“Well,” Putin said, “there goes that.” High Point Mayor Becky Smothers, when reached for comment, said, “What the heck are you talking about? How did you get this number? Please don’t call here again.”
High Point´s new professional baseball team, the Rocking Chairs, will play in the Major League´s only stadium made completely of wood, to reflect the city´s furniture-making tradition.
Fantasia Barrino wants season tickets.