MountainStar Sports Group completes purchase of Tucson Triple-A team

It's official: Baseball to El Paso

EL PASO, Texas - The sale of the Tucson Padres Triple-A team to MountainStar Sports Group in El Paso has been completed.

"Last month's decision made by your City Council and Mayor put all the elements in place for El Paso to be approved as a Triple-A city," said Branch Rickey, Pacific Coast League president. "Your community and the ownership group have been reviewed very carefully by the Pacific Coast League, Minor League Baseball, and Major League Baseball, and they have completed the many steps necessary to be approved and to bring the Tucson Padres to El Paso. We know El Paso will be an outstanding home for this team and an exciting place for visiting Pacific Coast League teams to play. Triple-A is known for intimate ballparks, accessibility to the players, and providing a real hometown feel in the game of baseball. That's what Triple-A is all about, and El Paso families are in for a unique, special treat."

Paul Foster, one of the team's owners, would not reveal how much the ownership group paid for the team but did say there is a chance the team could turn a profit in three years. MountainStar 

The team does not have a name yet and there is a possibility there will be a contest launched in the next few days to have El Pasoans help name the team.

Alan Ledford has been named, the president of MountainStar Sports Group. He was Minor League Baseball's executive of the year in 2006.

"Many people think we're on the baseball business. I like to think we're in the memory making business," Ledford said

Among those in attendance at the news conference were El Paso Mayor John Cook, City Manager Joyce Wilson, County Judge Veronica Escobar and City Reps. Steve Ortega, Cortney Niland and Susie Byrd.

On  Sept. 20, El Paso Mayor John Cook announced his decision not to veto City Council's decision to build a ballpark on the current site of City Hall.

At the Sept. 18 City Council meeting, city representatives passed three agenda items 4-to-3 that will pave the way to demolish City Hall  and allow for a ballpark to be built in Downtown El Paso. Former Mayor Ray Salazar has filed a lawsuit to prevent the demolition of City Hall.

"Either way I was going to make some people happy, and some people not happy," Cook said on Sept. 20.

Cook said he expects city staffers to begin moving out of City Hall in March. That will allow time to demolish the building and begin construction on a $50 million stadium that is expected to be ready for a Triple-A team for the 2014 season.

"We'll probably be out, most of the departments will be out earlier than that," Cook said. "The department that will have the most work to do will be the information technology folks. They have to tap into the fiber that runs up off the street and all of our IT equipment will go over to the new building which is the building that Mr. (Paul) Foster donated to the City."

On Sept. 18 Josh Hunt, a member of the ownership group, said he'd received an email from the Pacific Coast League telling him the deal would likely only occur if city council voted to stay on a previously proposed timeline for baseball to be played in Downtown El Paso in 2014.

In early July, a Major League Baseball vice president toured University Medical Center's trauma center this summer as part of the vetting process to see if an El Paso sports group should be allowed to buy the Tucson Padres and move the team to El Paso.

Earnell Lucas, director of Security/Facility Operations for Minor League Baseball, visited the hospital and toured the Sun City in early July during a three-day visit.

"At the major league level, we have a certain agreement with the level 1 trauma center with respect to having at least basic life support at the ballpark," Lucas said during his UMC visit which was captured on a YouTube video. "The standard is a little bit lower at the minor league level but given the proximity (to the stadium) I think there can be a great opportunity for a great relationship."

Lucas was asked by Dr. Alan Tyroch,  UMC's trauma center director, if the requirement for a level trauma 1 center was for the players or for the fans.

"It was initially in place for the fans," Lucas said. "Most of our (player) injuries that come off the field are usually breaks and things of that nature that don't necessarily require a level 1 trauma center. But having said that we had an owners meeting in Arizona in which one of our owners passed away from a cardiac event. So as a result of that baseball put a standard in place as a result of what we learned from that experience."

At the end of the nearly two-minute video Lucas said he had a wonderful stay in El Paso.

Bob Cook, Regional Economic Development Corporation president accompanied Lucas on his tour of El Paso and said it was a thorough visit.

They took a helicopter tour and "looked at everything," according to Cook. They drove by all hospitals, UTEP, and met with different local and federal law enforcement officials.

Lucas looked at community attractiveness, safety and security, demographics, economics, weather, quality of life, and health care.

Cook said it was very similar to visits from other private companies looking to relocate to El Paso.

Lucas also is vice president of educational programming and investigative services for Major League Baseball.

In addition to a $50 million ballpark, the acquisition of a Triple-A baseball franchise could potentially plant multiple young ballplayers making large paydays.

According to salary figures collected via Baseball-Almanac online, at least six Tucson Padres players are making more than $400,000 per year.

The minimum salary for a Triple-A ballplayer is $2,150/month. Some make larger salaries based on where they were drafted.

2012 Tucson Padres Roster - Salary information from

Anthony Bass, PITCHER #45 Salary in 2012 $485,300 - unavailable
Bear Bay, PITCHER #20 - unavailable
Brad Boxberger, PITCHER #26 No salary info
Erik Hamren, PITCHER #36 $414,000 - unavailable
Colt Hynes, PITCHER #29 - unavailable
Eddie Kunz, PITCHER #37 - $390,000
Dan Lazzaroni, PITCHER #18 - unavailable
Ross Ohlendorf, PITCHER #45 - unavailable
Matt Palmer, PITCHER #45 - n unavailable
Jason Ray, PITCHER #30 - unavailable
Anthony Reyes, PITCHER #17 - unavailable
Jorge Reyes, PITCHER #7 - unavailable
Josh Spence, PITCHER #4 - $480,000
Neil Wagner, PITCHER #24 - $414,000
Thad Weber, PITCHER #32 - $48,000

Rocky Gale, CATCHER #8 - unavailable
Eddy Rodriguez, CATCHER #22 - unavailable
Vince Belnome, 2B #2 - unavailable
Matt Clark, 1B #23 - unavailable
Anthony Contreras, 2B #5 - unavailable
Jedd Gyorko, 3B #28 - unavailable
Jesus Merchan, SS #12 - unavailable
Andy Parrino, 2B #13 - $481,000
Jonathan Roof, SS #26 - unavailable
Beamer Weems, SS #10 - unavailable
Sawyer Carrol, OF #21 - unavailable
Daniel Robertson, OF #1 - unavailable
Blake Tekkote, CF #9 - $414,000

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