New York U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer is among the elected officials applying political pressure to ensure that minor league baseball continues in its current form.
In mid-October, Baseball America reported that with the Professional Baseball Agreement between Major League Baseball and minor league teams expiring at the end of 2020, more than three dozen cities with affiliated teams and thousands of minor league players could be on the chopping block.
The story was picked up the New York Times, and local communities home to farm teams began to fret.
Schumer is the Democratic Senate Minority Leader. "Specifically, it was reported that 160 teams with minor league affiliations would become 118, with 42 teams reassigned to compete in a newly formed lower caliber independent league called the Dream League. What I'm particularly worried about is the effect this would have on four teams in New York state that were listed in the paper. They are the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Batavia Muckdogs, Auburn Doubledays and Staten Island Yankees. And so these four teams have woven themselves into the fabric of their communities. Up ending their relationship could be devastating for the fans and the local communities."
Rumble Ponies President John Hughes: "We've been in Binghamton for almost 26 years and just to take the team out of the community would really place a lot of harm on the community, as they would lose an incredible asset for a town that's already been through a lot and really comes out and supports the team. You know, I understand our attendance numbers are lower than our average counterpart in the Eastern League. That's merely a matter of the size of the community, not the level of support that we get, and I want to make that real clear."
Joshua Parrow is head baseball coach at Hudson Valley Community College. The school owns Joe Bruno Stadium, home to the Tri-City Valley Cats of the Class A New York-Penn League. "It rattled some people to the core because there's there are organizations like the Tri-City ValleyCats that do such an amazing job and have done such an amazing job, that they're not a flash in the pan organization. They're a very good organization that's very well loved and received in the community. So it would definitely have a severe impact. However, we're very strong and tough in the Capital Region, so I don't think it would it would break us, but it would hurt for sure. It would hurt for sure."
Schumer says for any minor league team to lose its affiliation with a big league organization, the end result would likely be a social and financial catastrophe. "I'm urging the MLB to immediately step up to the plate, halt this plan and sit down with community leaders and local stakeholders on the ground and with minor league baseball, to hear them out on their potential concerns and try to rework the plan as soon as possible, so we can ensure that baseball remains in these communities for years to come."
Parrow notes the MLB reconfiguration would lower the amount of players drafted every year form 40 rounds to 20 rounds. "Now in terms of what that says and what that does for Troy, New York and the Tri-City ValleyCats and Hudson Valley is, it's really is a unique dichotomy. The ValleyCats have been an amazing partner to the city of Troy and to the really the Capital Region over the over the past two decades. They've been providing not just baseball, but but really a family experience at an affordable cost for those past decades. For our economy, for our local sake, it would be severe, it would hurt it would take away memories and childhood memories for the folks that, you know, their parents had went there. Myself, I was a batboy for the Tri-City ValleyCats in 2004. When I took the job, the first thing I did was walk into the locker room to my old locker and sit down next to it with my dad, which was pretty cool for me. That experience can be taken away."
Schumer and more than 100 members of Congress signed a letter to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred arguing the proposal, which would become effective in 2021, is not in the best interest of the game or the communities. That letter, along with one personally penned by the Senator, is posted below:
- Click HERE to view the November 19th letter to the MLB commissioner.
- A copy of Schumer’s letter to the commissioner:
Dear Commissioner Manfred,
According to reports in the New York Times and other sources, I understand that Major League Baseball (MLB) is planning to significantly reduce the number of minor league baseball teams that share an affiliation with a major league club. Specifically, reporting suggests that there are plans to reduce the number of affiliated minor league teams from 160 to 118, four of which are New York teams. My understanding is that these teams would instead compete in a newly formed independent league, called the Dream League. Although further details are necessary, reports have suggested that determinations of which teams will lose their affiliation and be reassigned to compete in the Dream League was based in part on the level of interest and investment in the teams and their facilities. Additionally, the reports also indicated that four other New York teams’ business plans may potentially be drastically altered without consulting with team owners, players or the local communities. New York’s minor league teams have always provided players and fans with a high quality experience and safe and reliable facilities, which is why I am so deeply concerned about the impact this proposal may have on local New York communities and strongly urge you to immediately halt this plan, engage with local stakeholders to get their input and perspective. Specifically, while these negotiations are ongoing, I strongly encourage you to sit down with community leaders, team owners and representatives from the Minor Leagues to ensure that all of the parties are able to provide their feedback and propose constructive solutions prior to any decisions being made that will impact their teams and surrounding communities.
In particular, I am deeply concerned about the impact that such a decision would have on local communities across New York. Reports suggest that teams in Auburn, Batavia, Binghamton, and Staten Island may be impacted by this reassignment to the Dream League and if true, I am writing to request that you reconsider such plans. These teams have woven themselves into the fabric of these towns across New York and dramatically upending that relationship could be devastating for those fans and the local communities alike.
Furthermore, the New York-Penn League has a long and proud history with teams throughout the region. Having just celebrated its 80th year, the League has been a staple of summer for fans throughout New York for decades. The NY-Penn League’s short-season schedule has been perfect for New York baseball fans; starting in mid-June following the end of the colder spring weather and running through the remainder of the summer months. The NY-Penn League is also proud to be the first stop for many of the games’ top prospects after the MLB Amateur Draft and there is a deep-rooted affinity amongst fans for many of these players that they have watched grow up and go on to excel in the Major Leagues. Therefore, the potential dissolution of the league is deeply troubling and something I request you reconsider.
In addition to the four teams I mentioned, the reports also indicated that the business plans for the Tri-City Valleycats, Hudson Valley Renegades and Brooklyn Cyclones will potentially be drastically altered. Given the importance of these eight New York teams to their local communities and the fact that conversations between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball on these restructuring and consolidation issues are ongoing, it’s imperative urge to immediately halt these plans, engage with local stakeholders to get their feedback. The decisions regarding the future of these teams is too important to their local communities to be made in a board room.
Baseball is our national pastime and part of the makeup of our country. This is based in no small part on the fact that baseball can be found across the country, not just in big cities with major league clubs. Therefore, we must do all we can to make sure that communities across the country, but especially in New York, continue to have access to and connection with their local minor league teams. It is critical to ensuring that the fabric of our nation remains unbroken and a love for the game can be discovered and nurtured in communities both big and small.
Thank you for all of the work you do to support and grown the game and for your willingness to take these requests into account as you move forward in this restructuring process. If I can be of assistance in any way in helping to facilitate these conversations please reach out to me or my staff.