Schumer calls on MLB to listen to the concerns of Upstate communities before altering baseball landscape
Major League Baseball should not end its affiliation with the Batavia Muckdogs, or any of the other 41 minor league teams reportedly on the chopping block without sitting down and listening to local community leaders and minor league executives, Sen. Charles Schumer said during a telephone press conference with Upstate news media today.
"This plan presents some real potential problems for New York State," Schumer said. "We don't know how real it is, but the newspaper reports are very disconcerting. So I am calling today on the MLB and Minor League Baseball to sit down and talk with the community leaders and with team owners to ensure that all the relevant parties can provide feedback and propose constructive solutions before any final decisions are made."
The proposal to eliminate or demote 42 minor league teams is potentially an issue for members of Congress to take up because Major League Baseball enjoys an exemption from the Sherman Anti-Trust Act based on a ruling by the Supreme Court in 1922. Congress has the power to overturn that exemption.
Responding to a question from The Batavian, Schumer declined to comment on how he might respond to any proposal to lift the exemption.
"As for the antitrust exemption, we all know it exists," Schumer said. "Let's see what Major League Baseball has to say. Let's see how quickly and willingly and cooperatively they are willing to sit down with us before we comment on that particular proposal."
The current proposal -- as leaked to The New York Times -- would move 42 teams currently affiliated with major league teams to an independent "Dream League." Schumer acknowledged that it's unclear what MLB means by a "Dream League."
Besides Batavia, teams listed as candidates to lose a major league affiliation are Binghamton, Auburn and Staten Island. Three New York teams -- the Tri-City Valleycats, Hudson Valley Renegades and Brooklyn Cyclones -- would be promoted to AA leagues. That proposal, Schumer noted, would mean the end of the New York Penn League, founded in Batavia 80 years ago.
Complicating matters for Batavia is that the Muckdogs are now owned by the New York Penn League.
For decades, the Muckdogs were owned by the community, run by the Genesee County Baseball Club with a volunteer board of directors. The team has been perpetually for sale for several years. If it ever were sold, some of the proceeds would be returned to the GCBC.
Club President Brian Paris said last night that any proceeds from the sale would be used for the community's benefit.
So the Muckdogs are, in the true financial sense of the word, a community asset.
Attempts to reach Ben Hayes, NYPL president, to try and clarify how the MLB proposal might affect this community asset have been unsuccessful.
Schumer said the first order of business is getting MLB to listen to the concerns of the communities affected by this proposal. He is seeking a meeting with MLB Commissioner Rob Manafort, whom Schumer hopes will understand the concerns of Upstate communities because he's originally from Rome.
Loss of the NYPL would be especially devastating for baseball fans in Upstate New York, Schumer said. The Dream League, whatever that might be, Schumer said, might be a sufficient attraction to make professional baseball viable in Upstate.
"The New York Penn League short-season schedule has been ideal for New York baseball fans," Schumer said. "The games get started in mid-June after the colder spring weather; They last through the hot summer months when baseball's at its best, in my opinion."
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul has also weighed into the debate defending baseball in Batavia, stating, "If you’re in Batavia or anywhere nearby, you love the Muckdogs. I’ve been to many of their games. I’ve thrown out opening pitches. My husband and I slip in there at least once or twice a year to catch a game, so it’s part of the identity of the community and especially these small towns. I mean Batavia has a lot going for it, but part of it is being associated with a Minor League Baseball team."
Photo: File photo by Jim Burns.