As MLB moves through the back third of its embattled, pandemic-shortened regular season, an intriguing effort is growing off the field.
An initiative that includes former Red Sox president Dave Dombrowksi is looking to bring an expansion team with a diverse ownership group to Nashville, and entertainment mogul Justin Timberlake has now joined the cause as an investor and advisor.
In July, Dombrowski was named as an adviser to Music City Baseball, the group behind the effort.
The group also includes Hall of Famer Tony La Russa and former All-Star pitcher and MLB general manager Dave Stewart. Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales chairs the board and Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, is also a board member.
The 10-time Grammy-winner Timberlake — a Memphis native who became a minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2012 — says he believes in the group’s “vision of linking baseball and music in a unique way to unite and entertain people.”
Music City Baseball has a music industry advisors committee that now includes Timberlake along with Kix Brooks, Kane Brown, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Larry Gatlin and several others, according to The Tennessean.
John Loar, the managing director of Music City Baseball, said that the group has been working with Timberlake for six months.
“For us this is huge,” Dombrowski said in an interview with The Tennessean. “I mean [Timberlake] is somebody that’s world-known, huge in the area and the region and the state. He supports baseball and all of the other things that we stand for. Having someone like that involved speaks a lot for his interest in making this work and also gives us support in talking to other individuals of this ilk. It’s extremely important to us.”
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who has been vocal about wanting to expand the league to 32 teams, said at the 2018 All-Star Game that Nashville is one of a handful of “viable” expansion markets. But before a new team can break ground, the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays — both currently working to get new stadiums — must get situated. Music City Baseball’s effort also lacks a majority owner thus far.
The Nashville plan includes building a privately financed park next to the Tennessee Titans’ stadium on the Cumberland River and naming the team the Nashville Stars, after the former Negro League team. Loar wants the stadium to include a satellite branch of the Negro Leagues Museum.
Timberlake was also a fan of the group’s commitment to diversity.
“When we first had a conversation with Justin’s management team and then had a conversation with him, our initiative here and the connection we have with diversity, inclusion and the equity piece and the connection with the Negro Leagues and the opportunity to do something unique was important to him,” Loar said.