A big question in the world of sports is whether the Walmart-owned retail chain will be able to keep pace with rising labor and production costs, especially as more and more teams adopt a full-time coachless youth program. The company bought the Harlem Globetrotters in part because it knew it could use their name and likeness to sell products. It also allowed Walmart to get involved in a way that wouldn’t be considered bad publicity.
Walmart has been around since 1909 and has grown to become the largest retailer in the world, holding the number three spot consecutively behind Target and Sears. The company made its money in the first place by selling cheap clothes and shoes for women and children back in the day, but it’s found a new way to make money and become a force in American sports. To understand Walmart’s involvement with sports in America, one has to go back to the 1980s.
Walmart Helps Keep The Grass High Quality
When the TV show Million Dollar Decisions came out in 1985, it was one of the first shows to bring the world of sports to the masses. One of the first people the TV show introduced the country to was Walton P. Kolb, who was then the general manager of the St. Louis Chargers. The show followed Kolb as he made crucial decisions during the off-season. The show lasted just one season, but it was a success and prompted the then-new Million Dollar Decisions spin-off, Walking On Cloud Nine. It was Million Dollar Decisions that really started to bring the world of sports to the television screens of Americans of all backgrounds; the show made sports available to the masses for the first time.
St. Louis was one of the first places Million Dollar Decisions was filmed, with Kolb himself at the center of the action. It was here that he decided to go head-to-head with then-Chargers owner Wayne Rochelle in a one-on-one paintball battle. (Rochelle and Kolb eventually settled down and became friends.) The game was such a hit that Kolb decided to challenge Rochelle again, this time with six players on each side. The game, called Paintball Championship, was the brainchild of Kolb and Rochelle themselves, and it quickly grew in popularity. Kolb, with the help of Rochelle, decided to make a league of Paintball Championship and began selling the rules to anyone who would listen. He then went on to found the American Paintball Association and the National Paintball Championship, turning Paintball into a competitive sport in the process.
Chargers Make The Move To San Diego
When Kolb’s St. Louis team moved to San Diego in 1988, it was initially unclear as to what would happen to Paintball Championship. The San Diego Chargers, however, had other ideas. They knew Paintball Championship was a game that really resonated with the locals and decided to keep the game but move it to a different time slot, airing it at 7 p.m. on Sundays instead of noon like the rest of the games on their schedule.
So, while the fans in San Diego were still catching up on their Saturdays, the San Diego Chargers were interrupting their Sunday night relaxation to play catch with a red Penny Packet, with Kolb and Rochelle at the helm. It wasn’t long before the rest of the teams in the APA decided to follow suit and start playing at night as well, creating what is now known as the graveyard shift. This was also due, in part, to Kolb’s efforts to get more local businesses to support the teams, especially since many of the minor league baseball teams were having financial problems. He saw the night time as a way to get more people involved in the game and raise more money for charities, as well. The night time also made the game more appealing to women, since it wasn’t as likely to be interrupted by family parties as daytime games were.]
One of the biggest questions surrounding the involvement of Walmart in sports is whether or not it will hurt minor league baseball as we know it. After all, the company is not only involved in purchasing and selling sporting goods but also owns a large number of minor league sports teams. This doesn’t just affect sports on TV either; how will the company’s involvement affect the sports grounded in minor leagues?
There is no clear answer to whether or not Walmart’s involvement in sports will be good or bad for the minor leagues. On one hand, Walmart is supporting the youth sports movement, donating money to charities and playing a key role in getting more people involved in physical activity. On the other hand, the company is subsidizing a sport that many consider to be a children’s game and are concerned that it will become dominated by younger audiences. (The majority of the teams the company owns are minor leagues, with the Atlanta Braves being the only major league team. Minor league baseball is generally considered to be the step below the major leagues, so this is a safe assumption.)
There is also the issue of competition. It’s one thing to have a company that is helping baseball to stay afloat make a charity donation but another thing altogether for that company to buy the minor league team that is making the donation. This not only benefits the charity but also means less money left over for the minor league, which is supposed to represent the grassroots of baseball.
The Youthful Audience
To some extent, Walmart’s involvement in sports is a good thing, not only because it keeps baseball alive but also because it allows the minor games to exist. It’s not just about creating a profit either, as the company has a philosophy of helping others that is keeping it involved in futuresportswear and other areas of sports that it can profit from. For example, the Jersey Shorts, the band that Walmart bought the rights to name and use, made significant donations to several organizations, including the Shorts Hockey Association.
The Fans’ Choice
It’s hard to know how much Walmart’s involvement with sports will affect the overall image of major league baseball because the company is not only involved in buying and selling sporting goods but is also purchasing and modifying sports teams to fit its needs. However, there are a few things that are for certain. First off, no matter what happens, Walmart always gets its money back (plus some). This is largely due to the fact that minor league baseball is a niche market that focuses on baseball culture, as opposed to the mass-appeal sports that are popular in the major leagues. (And who knows? Maybe one day, Walmart will even sell some of their teams to the big leagues.)