Miami Sports Day

SEELY: Setting of one Sun

By FRED SEELY

JAX SPORTS NEWS

Peter Bragan gave himself a grand farewell this month as he ended his family’s 30-plus year ownership of the Jacksonville Suns.

What we lose is a good businessman, one who fought the system and won. Bragan made a lot of money, certainly in the seven figures each year, because some greedy big shots in town tried to pull a power play on him.

Here’s what happened. Around 2002, some of the city’s self-proclaimed big shots decided they wanted Triple-A baseball to go with the new Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville when it opened in 2003. 

Mayor John Delaney went along (after all, politicians don’t argue with the big shots.) Bragan was a pain in the derriere and getting rid of him would be a bonus.

Getting rid of Bragan wasn’t like getting rid of a pimple on the butt. He is a fiercely protective person who won’t back away from a fight. He may be crass, cheap and hard-headed, but he ain’t dumb.

But, why wouldn’t Bragan make a deal to get a Triple-A franchise and make everyone happy?

Bragan didn’t want Triple-A for many good reasons:

• It’s more expensive, starting with being an airplane league rather than a bus league.

• The quality of play is only marginally better, certainly not better to the average person’s eye.

• Triple-A is more of a rehab place these days; think of the number of players who have gone straight from Jacksonville to the big leagues without stopping on the way.

• People who go to minor league games don’t care who their team is playing. Most don’t care about their team. They want a fun evening out with cold beer and good hot dogs. So what if we play Montgomery rather than Indianapolis?

Bragan’s resistance was met with an implied threat. It’s going to be our ballpark and we’ll go get a team, and you’ll be left out. You can take your little Double-A and go elsewhere.

Okay, said Bragan, I will. Orange Park or St. Augustine will be glad to have me. Both counties are looking for something to claim as their own and building a ballpark would be enthusiastically received by the taxpayers. Sticking it to Jacksonville would be a bonus.

So Bragan had all the cards. If Jacksonville wanted to play hardball, they’ll lose because they won’t get Triple-A for two big reasons:

• Bragan had the rights to this geographic area. That included Clay and St. Johns counties.

• The Bragan family has been deeply ingrained in baseball for decades, and baseball isn’t about to let a loyal family get screwed.

So, who got screwed?

Surprise! The city finally realized they had a $30 million-plus ballpark under construction with no one to play in it. The people who wanted to screw Bragan got the message: they could really be screwed.

When they figured that out, they conceded. Forgive and forget, Pedro.
But Bragan doesn’t forgive and forget.

Want me to play in your new ballpark? Okay, here’s the terms. If you don’t like them, look for me down I-95 or US 17.

The terms he demanded, and got, are stunning. His financial obligation was $84,000 a year. For that, he got everything, including city-paid security. Probably a tenth of what others paid, maybe a twentieth.

That’s why he drove away in the sunset. When you make a few million a year, and you’re very cheap, there’s plenty for the future.

You and I paid for it, of course.

But don’t blame Pedro, as cheap and crass as he might be. He left the ballpark that night with a bagful of cash in that little red convertible. He earned every bit of it.

Let’s hope some big shots and the politicians learned a lesson. Doubtful, but let’s hope.

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