The Yankees' new big investment? It's not in a player, it's in esports

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We here in the baseball world are used to the New York Yankees investing their money in big-name baseball stars in pursuit of more World Series titles. It’s what they’ve been doing for decades. And that’s why the Yankees’ latest investment might surprise you a bit.

They’re not putting money toward one of next season’s big free agents. Nope, they’re investing in esports.

The Yankees announced Thursday that they’re entering into an investment partnership with Vision Esports, which itself is the largest investor in three blossoming esports companies — Echo Fox, Twin Galaxies, and Vision Entertainment. Echo Fox, it’s worth noting, was started by ex-NBA player Rick Fox.

Esports, while not quite as mainstream as traditional sports, is trending upward these days. These companies operate in various facets of what is essentially professional video gaming, and now they’ve aligned themselves with one of the most successful franchises in all of pro sports. The Yankees, as baseball fans know, are currently one win away from another trip to the World Series. The amount of their investment wasn’t disclosed.

From the Yankees’ announcement:

The New York Yankees and Vision Esports will seek to accelerate the growth and increase the global brand awareness of the three companies – Echo Fox, a leading professional esports organization founded by three-time NBA Champion Rick Fox; Twin Galaxies, a one-of-a-kind League Operator considered an authority on performance validation, statistics and skill indexes; and Vision Entertainment, a studio that creates esports-specific content for scripted and non-scripted platforms. Vision Esports is led by General Partners Stratton Sclavos, Jace Hall and Chris Nordling.

“The New York Yankees are thrilled to partner with Vision Esports and its diverse portfolio of esports companies,” said Hal Steinbrenner, Managing General Partner and Co-Chairperson, New York Yankees. “Guided by an impressively skilled and sports-savvy leadership team, Vision Esports is transcending the industry with a bold, innovative approach to their business, and we are excited to enter into this dynamic arena as their partner.”

The Yankees will bring their considerable marketing, sales and partnership experience to help all three companies accelerate their growth and expand their business relationships.

The Yankees and Vision Esports leadership will mirror management of the three esports properties in a manner very similar to traditional professional sports properties. This philosophy includes seeking to maximize revenue opportunities for advertising, sponsorships, media and broadcast rights, merchandise and ticket sales, naming rights and original content programming for both broadcast and streaming distribution formats. In addition, the Yankees and Vision Esports will collaborate on marketing and sponsorship initiatives across assets.

The Yankees, already pretty good at real sports, are now investing in esports. (AP)

Pro sports teams getting involved in esports isn’t new, but a franchise with the reputation and history of the Yankees is noteworthy. The New York Mets, Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors, New England Patriots and Cleveland Cavaliers are among the franchises that have invested in esports in one form or another.

In this respect, the Yankees aren’t necessarily looking to merge esports with their on-the-field product (although synergies will likely present themselves). Rather, the Yankees have the means to invest in a trending business and are looking to expand their empire in new direction. That’s certainly not unique to the Yankees — it’s just good business.

In another example of MLB teams using their resources to get involved in off-the-field business, the Los Angeles Dodgers started a business-accelerator program two years ago aimed at tech companies in the sports/entertainment space.

Who knows — 20 years from now, these types of business investments could be the things that help teams like the Yankees and Dodgers sign billion-dollar free agents.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!