Newly-released e-mails from Joplin city hall give an uncertain future about a professional baseball team. K-O-A-M and Fox 14 used the Sunshine law to obtain the e-mails, to and from Joplin's city hall, about the Joplin Blasters team.
There is a struggle for the Blasters to get higher attendance rates. But above all, the e-mails also leave a key question unanswered.
In an e-mail last month from City Manager Sam Anselm to Blasters' CEO Gabe Suarez, Anselm asked, "Are you planning on leaving after this season?" Anselm said in the e-mail he needs to know in order to do his job and see if he needs to find a new tenant to occupy Joe Becker stadium next season.
"I think that's a legitimate question," Anselm told us.
But Anselm wrote to Suarez that he has heard rumors that the Blasters won't be around after this season. Suarez stated, "Everyone can see there are low attendance rates."
Anselm, in the same e-mail thread, also asked if Suarez was getting rid of players.
Suarez wrote to Anselm that he has heard rumors that the city wanted to hurt the Blasters by not fixing drainage issues on the Blasters' home field. But e-mails show Joplin's parks and recreation director believed the Blasters weren't properly taking care of Joe Becker's field, as the Blasters' contract with the city requires.
Anselm tells us city officials noticed issues with the field last week.
"I guess they had left the irrigation system on," Anselm told us.
Residents near Joe Becker stadium have also complained and took pictures of their alleys blocked-off by Blasters workers. Joplin police followed-up with those complaints and spoke with a Blasters worker.
Suarez wrote to Anselm, "I highly doubt you pick and nag at the other sports teams in the city about grass height and sign location." Anselm replied, "That would be because they don't have responsibility to maintain those premises."
Anselm says he has yet to hear or read an answer from Suarez about his team's future after this season.
"I don't know what their plans are. I can tell you we do have a lease with the team for the next five years. So it would be my expectation that they would put their team in the stadium next season. If they don't, we'll have to have a conversation with our legal departments to figure out what the next steps are on that," Anselm told us.
Details of an outside, independent tournament at Joe Becker were also included in the e-mails. After the tournament was played, organizers of the event said field maintenance, done by the Blasters, was done poorly.
The Blasters' Gabe Suarez declined our request for an interview.
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