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January 12, 2021 - 8:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in baseball, sports, muckdogs, batavia.
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The Muckdogs will bark again.

True, no longer will the team be comprised of players affiliated with a Major League Baseball team but the majority of players in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League are legitimate professional baseball prospects.

As many as 30 current major league players have passed through the league previously, said Robbie Nichols, the former professional hockey player who already owns a PGCBL team in Elmira and will own the expansion PGCBL Muckdogs in Batavia.

The Genesee County Community Baseball Club, which owns the Muckdogs trademark, has agreed to let Nichols use the team name.

PGCBL is a "wooden bat league" -- a league comprised of amateur players who play or will play Division I or Division II college baseball.

A couple of advantages of collegiate ball over low-level minor league ball, Nichols said, is that the players with a team tend to spend the entire season with a team, so fans get to know them and Nichols said his organization -- CAN-USA Sports -- is committed to fielding a team with about four players from the local area.

The PGCBL regular season consists of 60 games from late May until the end of July. The playoffs and championship are in the first week of August.

Season tickets are on sale now and start at $99. There is also a VP ticket package for $199. Existing Muckdogs season ticket holders will have priority to retain the seats they had in previous seasons.

January 8, 2021 - 5:46pm
posted by Press Release in new york penn league, baseball, muckdogs, sports.

Press release:

In 1939, the New York-Penn League (NY-P League) was founded in Batavia, NY (formerly known as the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York (PONY) League), and has been the oldest, continuously operated CLASS A league in professional baseball.

As one of the founding members of the League, the Batavia club has proudly provided affordable, family entertainment for the Batavia community and Western New York for decades.

Unfortunately, Major league Baseball has announced it will no longer continue to offer Major League Baseball club affiliations to Batavia and most of the other clubs in the New York-Penn League.

The result of Major League Baseball’s action means the end of professional baseball in Batavia.

Major League Baseball’s announcement was part of other sweeping changes being made to the player development structure of the Minor Leagues, which includes the elimination of the Rookie classification and the NY-P League’s Class A – Short Season classification of professional baseball.

In sum, Major League Baseball believes these classifications are no longer needed for developing its players.

NY-P League President, Ben Hayes, recently stated, “The elimination of this historic League as part of Major League Baseball’s player development system is truly heartbreaking for the NY-P League’s fans, communities, club employees, and club owners.

"Sadly, most of the NY-P League’s clubs played their final professional baseball games in 2019, and neither they nor their fans knew at the time that it would be their last professional baseball season.

"The elimination of these classifications of professional baseball by Major League Baseball will result in thousands of players, who would have had an opportunity to develop and compete to play in the Major Leagues, will no longer get the chance to live their dream.

"I’ve been working with Batavia Interim City Manager, Rachael Tabelski, over the past several months to ensure the Batavia community will continue to enjoy the play of live baseball at historic Dwyer Stadium.”

During its professional baseball history, the Batavia club enjoyed four NY-P League championships, and Batavia’s fans saw numerous players who went on to have exceptional Major League careers, including Steve Blass, Doc Ellis, Cito Gaston, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and many others.

In 1961, the Batavia club made history when the Pittsburg Pirates named Gene Baker as the Batavia club’s manager, making him the first African American to manage a professional baseball club.

Prior to the 2008 season, the club was operated by Genesee County Baseball Club, a nonprofit community-based organization. From 2008-2017, the club was operated by the Rochester Red Wings, and in 2018 and 2019 by a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NY-P League.

In 2019, the Batavia club won the Pickney Division championship and competed for the NY-P League championship, increased its attendance by 42 percent, and won an award for the best natural turf field in the NY-P League.

December 9, 2020 - 7:19pm

Major League Baseball Enterprises Inc., a multinational corporation based in New York City, is killing off professional baseball in Batavia.

That's an oversimplification but that is likely the end result.

The New York-Penn League, founded in Batavia in 1939, is breaking apart -- though a smaller independent league may survive -- and since the NY-P owns the Muckdogs, the league in its new form, if it survives at all, won't have the wherewithal to operate a baseball club in Batavia.

Today, MLB announced that its Major League teams have selected their affiliates for the 2021 season and Batavia is not on that list.

Only four NY-P teams are on the list.

Some NY-P teams have chosen to join what will be known as the MLB Draft League. The new league will consist of collegiate players who compete on a limited schedule from May until the All-Star break when the MLB will conduct its annual amateur draft.

For more than a year, MLB and MiLB have been in negotiations over a new operations agreement, with the number of Minor League teams being reduced by at least 40 franchises.  That plan also would have eliminated the Muckdogs as a Major League-affiliated team.

The plan announced today goes a step further by eliminating the MiLB completely. MLB teams will have license agreements (they'll no longer be known as franchises), with each affiliated team and the Minor League system will be operated out of the MLB offices in NYC.

It's unclear if the owners of the 120 teams being offered license agreements will agree to the MLB terms. They just received the proposed contracts today.

Red Wings Gave it Their Best Shot

In 2008, the Genesee County Baseball Club, owner of the Muckdogs at the time, entered into a 10-year operations agreement with Rochester Red Wings. The Red Wings operated the team at a loss for those 10 years but the agreement gave them a 50-percent ownership stake in the team.

In 2018, the NY-P would not allow a new operations agreement and took over ownership of the team with an agreement that would allow the NY-P to recover its operating losses from any eventual sale of the club. The GCBC, a community-owned organization, would receive any money left from the sale that wasn't paid out to the Red Wings or the NY-P.

It is unclear if any of the financial stakeholders in the Muckdogs will be compensated for MLB's apparent unilateral elimination of the team.  

Ben Hayes, commissioner of the NYPL, said he's asked the question directly and hasn't gotten an answer.

Naomi Silver, chief executive officer of the Red Wings, said she also doesn't know whether the Muckdogs owners will be compensated for the loss of the team. 

An attorney who specializes in antitrust and business competition law, Luke Hasskamp, with Bonalaw, based in Los Angeles, said Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball are both protected by an antitrust exemption that prevents those harmed by MLB's actions from filing an antitrust claim. 

Major League Baseball is a legal monopoly.  

Where to Go from Here?

The legal options for the Muckdogs stakeholders are limited, he said. The last affiliation agreement the Muckdogs had with a Major League team, the Miami Marlins, expired after the unplayed 2020 season, so there may not be a breach-of-contract claim. 

Other legal options don't seem to apply to the Muckdogs, such as claims that the stakeholders made financial commitments and investments based on a promised continued relationship. Since the Muckdogs have been under a cloud of financial hardship -- making them a target for acquisition and relocation -- there are no apparent promises of continued play in Batavia.

The commissioner's office, with its new plan for player development, is not specifically eliminating the Batavia Muckdogs. The lack of an affiliation with a Major League club, however, along with the upheaval in the NY-P caused by the new alignment, makes it impossible to operate the Muckdogs as a professional baseball team, causing its estimated $6 million value to evaporate. 

Asked if the stakeholders could claim the MLB unjustly deprived them of appropriate compensation for making the Muckdogs as a financial asset valueless, Hasskamp compared the idea to eminent domain, but said since MLB is a private organization any such comparison does not legally apply.

"It’s an interesting argument, not one I have thought through much, but it’s challenging, in my opinion, not only because MLB isn’t a public entity because also, as you pointed out, MLB isn’t really taking property," Hasskamp said. "It’s just taking action that will impact the value of others’ businesses. This may be relevant to a party’s damages."

At the end of that email to The Batavian, Kasskamp said, "One other thought: It will be interesting if this stirs any greater interest in Congress to revoke baseball’s antitrust exemption. These contractions are going to impact a number of communities / congressional districts, and more than 100 congressmen noted their displeasure when the contractions were first announced."

Will Schumer Keep Fighting for Batavia?

On a couple of recent visits, we've asked Sen. Charles Schumer, a die-hard baseball fan, if he would pursue legislation to revoke MLB's antitrust exemption. He didn't give a direct answer. He just promised to keep fighting to save teams like the Batavia Muckdogs and Auburn Doubledays.  

This afternoon, we asked a member of his staff for a statement and clarification on Schumer's position on the antitrust exemption and didn't get a response.

Today, in a phone conversation, Hayes offered no hopeful take on the future of the Muckdogs given today's announcement, other than to say there is still much that is unknown about the MLB plan and how Minor League team owners will respond to the license offers.

Silver said the team owners haven't even had a chance to fully review the contracts and discuss the best course of action. She said she's hopeful the Red Wings will be made whole for their losses incurred while operating the Muckdogs.

"We're sad to think there will be no Muckdogs baseball in Batavia," Silver said. "We worked hard for 10 years to try and save the team."

She noted that Batavia is not the only community suffering a loss of a team because of the MLB's decision.

"Batavia is not being singled out," she said.

Tabelski: Games Will be Played at Dwyer

While the prospect of a professional baseball game ever again being played in Batavia seems dim, that doesn't mean there won't be organized baseball played at Dwyer Stadium in the coming years.

Rachael Tabelski, interim city manager, said she has been contacted by representatives from collegiate leagues (often called wooden bat leagues) and semi-pro leagues looking to move into Dwyer. She said the city has yet to respond to those inquiries because there is still a contract in place with the NY-P that gives the league control of what baseball is played in the stadium. Unless and until that contract is resolved, the city can't find a new tenant. 

There will be a tenant in Dwyer again, Tabelski said. 

"As somebody who grew up going to Clippers and Muckdog games, it's very sad to think about losing the team," she said. "I think it's very difficult to look at losing the baseball team we've loved, but there will still be an opportunity for baseball in this town."

And the next team to make Batavia home could very well be called the Muckdogs. The Genesee County Baseball Club has retained the rights to the Muckdogs trademark (it was recently renewed).

November 20, 2020 - 6:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in baseball, sports, muckdogs, news.
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At a press conference in Medina yesterday, Sen. Charles Schumer announced that the Rochester Red Wings will become an affiliate of the Washington Nationals. The Nationals will move their AAA affiliate from Fresno, Calif., to Rochester.

He said he continues to fight to save the Muckdogs, the Doubledays, as well as the entire New York Penn League. We asked about Congress using its power to exempt Major League Baseball from its anti-trust exemption and he didn't answer the question directly.

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November 11, 2020 - 12:54pm
posted by Press Release in sports, muckdogs, 2020 refund checks, Minor League Baseball.

Press release:

“The Batavia Muckdogs Baseball Club will be issuing refund checks to purchasers of 2020 game tickets at the Dwyer Stadium office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 13 and Saturday, Nov. 14.

"To expedite the refund process, please bring a government-issued identification and proof of purchase (e.g., receipt, cancelled check, or credit card statement).”

Ben J. Hayes, President

BATAVIA MUCKDOGS INC.

July 1, 2020 - 12:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in baseball, sports, muckdogs, batavia, notify.

One thing is certain: There will be no professional baseball in Batavia in 2020.

The decision is final, according to numerous news reports that say the Minor League Baseball season is canceled because Major League Baseball teams will not furnish the minors with players in 2020. 

If there is an MLB season, it will likely start later this month, with only 60 games on the schedule. Teams would be limited to 60 eligible players. The 20 players beyond the standard 40-man roster would practice and workout on "taxi squads."

New York Penn League President Ben Hayes, in an exclusive interview with The Batavian a week ago, was still hopeful at that point that there would be a 2020 season for his league and the Muckdogs. We've not been able to reach him for comment today.

While it's quite possible there will never again be a professional baseball game played in Dwyer Stadium, last week Hayes was also hopeful that wouldn't be the case.

Prior to the pandemic hitting, the future of baseball in Batavia didn't look good. The MLB is trying to force the MiLB to accept a contraction, eliminating 42 minor league teams, including the entire NYPL. While there was talk of creating a "dreamers league" of low-level prospects, and Batavia could be a potential spot for such a team, there was no indication at that stage of negotiations on whether Batavia would be part of those plans.  

An ESPN column suggests that the 2020 cancellation and pandemic have effectively eliminated whatever leverage the minor league teams might have had to stop the contraction. Several teams were in a precarious situation financially, not just including the 42 slated for elimination, and now the financial situation is much worse for those teams.

Last week, Hayes said he has communicated his desire to MiLB negotiators to see at least one more season of NYPL baseball, asking that the contraction be delayed until after the 2021 season, which would give cities like Batavia a farewell tour with their teams.

June 24, 2020 - 4:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, muckdogs, sports, baseball, notify.

muckdogsfiedljune2020.jpg

It would be "very, very sad" way for baseball to end in Batavia and 41 other minor league cities if the baseball season were canceled and a new agreement between Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball eliminated those small franchises, said Ben Hayes, president of the New York Penn League.

Professional baseball in Batavia was under threat of extinction before a pandemic hit, and news reports have indicated Minor League Baseball has conceded to the MLB's request to consolidate leagues across the nation. Still, Hayes said today that negotiations continue and nothing has been finalized.

Even better news, he isn't giving up on playing NYPL baseball in 2020. The season is indefinitely postponed, but Hayes said he and league owners and officials want players in parks and fans in seats this season if at all possible, including in Batavia.  

The NYPL operates in eight states, and there are only two stadiums so far that are in regions where COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted enough to allow fans and ballplayers into ballparks.

"There's nobody at the Major League level or the Minor League level that has said this season is over and done," Hayes said. "Nothing has been canceled at either the full-season or short-season level."

If a decision was made to play ball, the MLB has suggested it would take players two or three weeks to get ready for the rigors of professional baseball.  

Hayes is currently traveling around the league, including a planned stop in Batavia, and league owners have been holding regular conference calls so they can be ready for the day when there can be baseball again.

Every team is developing plans to ensure social distancing is maintained; there is plenty of personal protective equipment for personnel; there are plans for thorough and regular cleaning and sanitizing in place, and to ensure that hotels and busses are safe and clean. 

"Everybody has a plan right now," Hayes said. "We're following the guidelines to make sure our players are safe but also our fans and stadium staff or safe. Right now, it's just a waiting game."

If the season is washed out, Hayes said he has already communicated with the Minor League's negotiating committee to request that any new agreement that could potentially eliminate teams would be delayed at least a year so that fans in those cities losing their franchises could get a farewell season before shutting down.

"That's my hope," Hayes said. "We voiced that to our representatives on the negotiating committee," Hayes said. "There are 42 clubs out there that if that plan were to go through, they would have never gotten a chance to have a last season, and that would be very, very sad."

As for the current operations of the Muckdogs, if you call the office, the phone is disconnected. It's not possible to get in touch with General Manager Brendan Kelly.  

Hayes said shutting down operations was purely a cost-saving measure and not an indication of the status of the ballclub.

"We're just trying to save money," Hayes said. "We're trying not to accrue costs simply because of the financial situation of the Muckdogs."

Meanwhile, except for the city mowing the infield and outfield grass, the playing surface is not being maintained. Weeds are sprouting up all over the diamond that Cooper Thomas has beautifully manicured over the past couple of seasons. 

None of that is a worry, Hayes said. 

"We can get that back in shape in two or three weeks once we get a grounds crew in there," Hayes said. 

The weeds maybe a little bigger but the situation now isn't much different than it would be in a typical year when crews start preparing the field for high school players in the spring.

"It's amazing what an edger and a lawnmower and a little bit of fertilizer and weed killer can do," Hayes said. "It makes a huge difference and you can really turn a field around quickly."

Whether Thomas will return in 2020 to lead that effort -- assuming the NYPL gets to play baseball -- is up in the air, Hayes said. He would love to have Thomson back and Thomas wants to come back, he said, but President Trump's current moratorium on worker immigration because of COVID-19 could prevent Thomas from making the trip from Australia to Batavia.

Top Photo: Weeds growing in the Dwyer Stadium infield.

muckdogsfiedljune2020-2.jpg

Yesterday, the Dwyer Stadium scoreboard was lit up with "Reds 0 / Pirates 0 / PPD."

June 17, 2020 - 6:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in kathy hochul, baseball, sports, video, muckdogs.
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While Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was in Pavilion today, we asked her if she was still involved in trying to save the Batavia Muckdogs.

April 21, 2020 - 10:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in muckdogs, baseball, sports, notify.

Minor League Baseball appears to be ready to accept a deal with MLB, Baseball America reports, that would eliminate 42 franchises and wipe out short-season Single-A baseball, ending an 81-year history of the New York Penn League that began in Batavia.

With a pandemic threatening the 2020 baseball season, Dwyer Stadium may have hosted its last professional baseball game on Sept. 6, 2019.

We don't know yet, of course. If there is 2020 baseball, the new deal -- which BA indicates isn't final yet -- wouldn't take effect until 2021.

There's no indication in the article how team owners would be compensated for the loss of their properties. The Batavia Muckdogs are owned by the NYPL but the Genesee County Baseball Club, a community group, and the Rochester Red Wings still have a financial stake in the team.

February 1, 2020 - 10:52am
posted by Howard B. Owens in baseball, sports, muckdogs, notify, batavia.

Major League Baseball officials are apparently spreading false information about the Batavia Muckdogs as part of a negotiating tactic to destroy professional baseball in 42 communities, including Batavia.

Daniel Halem, MLB's deputy commissioner, said in a letter to a Minor League Baseball official that the Muckdogs have been sold and are being relocated to another city.

That is not true, City Manager Marty Moore said. Moore has spoken both with the Muckdogs general manager and Ben Hayes, president of the New York Penn League. The league owns the team.

Moore said city officials and club officials are excited about the upcoming 2020 season after the team's most successful season in many, many years in 2019 when attendance averaged 1,165 per game, up from 785 the previous season.

In Halem's letter to MiLB's Pat O’Conner, he wrote:

The recent information we learned about the Batavia affiliate not only proves this point but, frankly, calls into questions whether MiLB is truly pursuing a strategy in the “best interests of our 160 community partners.” Batavia is a failing affiliate, with both facility and economic issues, that was put into receivership by the NY Penn League (which essentially owns and operates the team). New York State officials requested that MLB officials meet with Batavia community officials to discuss how to preserve baseball in Batavia. After we set up the meeting, we learned for the first time from multiple sources (but not MiLB) that the NY Penn League sold Batavia — presumably for millions of dollars — to an owner who intends to move the team to another city. While this transaction certainly benefits the NY Penn League owners who may split millions in proceeds by selling an asset with no intrinsic value, we fail to see how it is in the “best interests” of the citizens of Batavia or MLB owners, whose minor league players endure unreasonable travel burdens because MiLB permits its affiliates to hopscotch around the country for purely economic reasons.

Moore said at no point have MLB officials contacted him or anybody else in the City of Batavia.  

Contrary to Halem's letter, if the team is ever sold, its "intrinsic value" would be split between the NYPL, the Rochester Red Wings (who operated the team for 10 years in exchange for equity in the club), and the Genesee Community Baseball Club, a community organization that would return its share of the proceeds to the community.

January 28, 2020 - 4:42pm

Press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today (Jan. 27) representatives Lori Trahan (D-MA), David McKinley (R-WV), Max Rose (D-NY), and Mike Simpson (R-NY), co-chairs of the "Save Minor League Baseball Task Force" -- introduced a bipartisan resolution expressing the sense of Congress that Major League Baseball (MLB) should maintain the current Minor League structure rather than proceed with its plan to eliminate 42 Minor League clubs, including the Batavia-based Muckdogs.

Congresswoman Lori Trahan said: “We launched the Save Minor League Baseball Task Force for a simple purpose -- to help ensure a level playing field in the negotiations between MLB and Minor League Baseball so that they yield a fair resolution and protect Minor League Baseball in communities across the country. Congress has long been a partner to the league in protecting and expanding America’s favorite pastime. We deserve to have our voices heard in any conversation with such potentially devastating consequences. This resolution makes our position clear, and I am grateful to my fellow co-chairs and colleagues for their continued support of this effort."

Congressman David McKinley said: “Minor League Baseball teams have had a major impact on small communities. These teams provide an enormous cultural and economic benefit to the communities they call home. The goal of our involvement in this fight is to ensure a level playing field in the negotiations between Major League Baseball (MLB) and MiLB. Doing away with 42 teams is not a reasonable solution. We are hopeful that MiLB and MLB can find acompromise that will preserve the 42 MiLB teams and address MLB’s concerns.”

Congressman Max Rose said: “The value that Minor League Baseball adds to our communities goes so far beyond entertainment. Teams like the Staten Island Yankees offer youth clinics for our kids, donate to local schools and charities, and volunteer countless hours to help those in need. This resolution sends a clear message that we recognize those contributions, and that I’m going to do everything in my power to protect the Staten Island Yankees."

Congressman Mike Simpson said: “Minor League Baseball is at the heart of small towns all across rural America. The proposal to cut 42 teams will leave communities like Idaho Falls without affordable and accessible options for families to experience America’s pastime. I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing this resolution which expresses more than 60 members of Congress opposition towards eliminating the Chukars and other Minor League organizations. I hope Major League Baseball takes the concerns of fans in small-town America seriously when considering the current proposal.”

Congressman Joe Courtney said: “The proposal to eliminate our Norwich Sea Unicorns and 41 other Minor League teams across the country is a profound mistake. Countless baseball fans ofall ages attend MiLB games each season, and for many, It’s their only chance to see our nation’s pastime in a family-friendly, affordable atmosphere. There have been well over half a million statistical errors committed in the MLB since its founding in 1896, but this plan to do away with a quarter of all our Minor League teams ranks among the worst of them – it will cost American communities jobs, and more importantly it will cost us in quality of life. The House is leading the charge to protect our Minor League Baseball teams, and I’m proud to be part of this bipartisan effort. MLB Commissioner Manfred and his team need to take a hard second look at their proposal, and consider what it could mean for the long-term support that Congress hasalways afforded to the MLB on a variety of issues.”

Congressman Tim Ryan said: “The Mahoning Valley Scrappers are a pillar of our community and provide an affordable and fun way for families to spend time together. These Minor League teams are an integral part of American baseball. Not only do they offer a pipeline to the MLB, they stand as a cultural cornerstone in communities like mine. I’m 100 percent with the Scrappers because I know that in the Mahoning Valley, the best days for America’s pastime are yet to come.”

Congressman Andy Barr said: “Minor League Baseball provides so much to our local communities, bringing family friendly entertainment, job opportunities and a significant economic impact to every city a team calls home. The impact of the Lexington Legends is no exception. The 2019 South Atlantic League Champion Legends bring an average economic impact of $47.2 million per year to my community and, in addition, donate an average of $1 million locally. I am committed to doing what I can to support the Legends and ensure that they stay in Lexington for years to come.”

Congressman Phil Roe said: “With five teams in our region, perhaps no area in America would be more affected by the proposed restructuring of Minor League Baseball than East Tennessee. Baseball is an integral part of so many communities, and a significant source of community pride and entertainment. I will do everything I can to ensure America’s pastime is preserved for generations to come across East Tennessee. That is why I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing a bipartisan resolution to help preserve Minor League Baseball in 160 communities across the nation."

Congressman John Moolenaar said: "Michigan families love spending their summers outside watching baseball and our minor leagueteams have fans throughout the state. It is my hope that Major League Baseball and its Minor League affiliates reach an agreement that is good for teams in Michigan and across the nation."

Congressman Anthony Brindisi said: "The proposal by Major League Baseball to eliminate Minor League teams, like New York’s Binghamton Rumble Ponies, is a big swing and a miss. Minor League Baseball and the communities that support it are part of the fabric of America and its favorite pastime. I joined my colleagues, from both parties, to call on Major League Baseball to work with Minor League Baseball and preserve affordable, family friendly fun. As a lifelong baseball fan and New Yorker, I am not going to sit on the bench in this fight. We need to keep the Rumble Ponies inBinghamton and help save Minor League Baseball."

Congressman Mike Kelly said: “Minor League Baseball teams are a crucial part of America’s pastime, and they provide affordable entertainment options for working families across our country. Major League Baseball’s plan to cut ties with 42 Minor League teams, including Erie’s beloved SeaWolves, would be devastating to millions of baseball loving Americans. I am a proud co-sponsor of this resolution that urges MLB to reconsider. It would be tragic to lose these teams."

Pat O’Conner, president, MiLB said: “Minor League Baseball is most appreciative of the bipartisan support we have received from so many members of Congress. The resolution introduced today shows the widespread support for Minor League Baseball and we thank representatives McKinley, Rose, Simpson and Trahan for leading the charge in support of Minor League Baseball.”

Congress: "Unified Opposition to MLB plan"

On Nov. 19, more than 100 members of Congress joined together on a letter to MLB expressing our unified opposition to the MLB plan. This resolution is a further demonstration that Minor League clubs – and the communities for which they play – are not without support in Congress.

Furthermore, it reflects Congress’s legitimate interest in ensuring fair negotiations between MLB and MiLB.

MLB’s plan was offered in spite of the fact that Minor League Baseball (MiLB) just completed its 15th consecutive season with an attendance above 40 million; and it was the ninth-largest single season total in MiLB’s 100-plus year history.

Many of the Minor League clubs would fail without a PDC—leaving as many as 1,200 players out of work. The plan is a betrayal of the fans, players, municipalities, stadium vendors and employees who have supported these clubs for decades.

Text of the resolution is below:

RESOLUTION
Supporting Minor League Baseball, and for other purposes.
Whereas 40 million plus fans have attended Minor League Baseball games each season for 15 consecutive years;
Whereas Minor League Baseball provides wholesome affordable entertainment in 160 communities throughout the country;
Whereas, in 2018, Minor League Baseball clubs donated over $45 million in cash and in-kind gifts to their local communities and completed over 15,000 volunteer hours;
Whereas the economic stimulus and development provided by Minor League Baseball clubs extends beyond the cities and towns where it is played, to wide and diverse geographic
areas comprising 80 percent of the population in the Nation;
Whereas Minor League Baseball is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion through its Copa de la Diversión, MiLB Pride, FIELD Program, and Women in Baseball Leadership initiatives;
Whereas Minor League Baseball is the first touchpoint of the national pastime for millions of youth and the only touchpoint for those located in communities far from Major League cities;

Whereas Congress has enacted numerous statutory exemptions and immunities to preserve and sustain a system for Minor League Baseball and its relationship with Major League Baseball;
Whereas abandonment of 42 Minor League Baseball clubs by Major League Baseball would devastate communities, bond purchasers, and other stakeholders that rely on the economic stimulus these clubs provide;

Whereas Minor League Baseball clubs enrich the lives of millions of Americans each year through special economic, social, cultural, and charitable contributions; and
Whereas preservation of Minor League Baseball in 160 communities is in the public interest, as it will continue to provide affordable, family friendly entertainment to those communities:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved,

That the House of Representatives
(1) supports the preservation of Minor League Baseball in 160 American communities; (2) recognizes the unique social, economic, and historic contributions that Minor League Baseball has made to American life and culture; and
(3) encourages continuation of the 117-year foundation of the Minor Leagues in 160 communities through continued affiliations with Major League Baseball.

Original co-sponsors (co-leads bolded): Representatives Axne, Banks, Barr, Bishop, Blunt Rochester, Bonamici, Brindisi, Brown, Budd, Burchett, Cisneros, Cline, Comer, Courtney,Cunningham, DeFazio, Escobar, Finkenauer, Fitzpatrick, Fleischmann, Fudge, Gianforte, Griffith, Guthrie, Haaland, Higgins, Horsford, Joyce (OH), Kaptur, Katko, Keating, Keller, Kelly, Kennedy, Lamborn, Larsen, Loebsack, Lynch, Matsui, McCollum, McKinley, Miller, Moolenaar, Morelle, Moulton, Newhouse, Pocan, Price, Raskin, Riggleman, Roe, Rogers, Rose, Ryan, Schrader, Serrano, Simpson, Slotkin, Thompson, Tipton, Trahan, Trone, Turner, Underwood, Wasserman Schultz, and Welch.

December 6, 2019 - 12:19pm

Press release:

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer recently sat down with President of Minor League Baseball (MiLB) Pat O’Conner, and owner of the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, John Hughes, to hear out their concerns about Major League Baseball’s (MLB) reported proposal to restructure the minor leagues and dramatically reduce or significantly restructure a number of Upstate franchises that share an affiliation with an MLB club.

The group also discussed ways to alter the plan to reduce its potentially harmful impacts in New York. Additionally, last week, Schumer spoke with Brian Paris, president of the Genesee County Baseball Club — the community ownership group of the Batavia Muckdogs — to hear out his concerns, as well.

“I was so pleased to have MiLB President Pat O’Conner and John Hughes, owner of the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, down to my office in Washington to talk through the MLB’s troubling plan to restructure the minor leagues and strike teams across Upstate New York out of their major league affiliations," Schumer said.

"The conversation was positive and we all agreed that we must work in lock-step to keep minor league baseball sewn into the very fabric of our state, as it has been since World War II. Before finalizing its plans, MLB must continue its discussions with local leaders, stakeholders and MiLB with the goal of reworking this plan and preventing New York from being left in the dust. MLB threw Upstate New York a biting curveball here, but we are looking to foul it off and get a better pitch to hit.”

Last month, news reports revealed that MLB is planning to take 42 teams that are currently affiliated with Major League teams and strip those organizations of their affiliations and reassign them to compete in a newly formed, lower-caliber league, called the Dream League.

Reports indicate that MLB’s current proposal would eliminate the Major League affiliations of four teams across New York State: the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Batavia Muckdogs, Auburn Doubledays and Staten Island Yankees — and drastically alter the business plans of the Tri-City Valleycats, Hudson Valley Renegades and Brooklyn Cyclones.

During the meeting, Schumer heard out MiLB’s and the Rumble Ponies’ serious concerns with the plan, and vowed to do whatever he could to maintain minor league baseball’s strong presence in Upstate New York.

This November, after learning of the proposal, Schumer immediately wrote to MLB to express his serious concerns, push the league to stop playing hardball and sit down with local stakeholders to discuss the plan and search for constructive solutions that would maintain minor league baseball’s strong presence in Upstate New York.

In the time since, MLB met with representatives of MiLB and team owners to talk about the plan in further detail. Schumer is now urging those conversations to continue and for the parties to figure out a way to prevent the Upstate minor league teams from losing their major league affiliations.

December 4, 2019 - 2:18pm

Press releases:

The Batavia Muckdogs today praised the newly created Save Minor League Baseball Task Force that has been organized by members of Congress to prevent Major League Baseball (MLB) from eliminating 42 minor league franchises, nearly one quarter of all minor league teams around the country.

“We appreciate the support of Rep. Lori Trahan (D.-Massachusetts), David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and the members of the task force in standing up for Minor League Baseball and speaking out against MLB’s effort cast off thousands of jobs, reduce affordable, family-friendly entertainment and undermine grassroots support for our great game,” said Muckdogs General Manager Brendan Kelly.

The Batavia Muckdogs have been identified as one of the 42 franchises facing elimination under the MLB proposal.

Minor league teams are vital to the social and economic lives of millions of Americans; they support scores of local businesses and jobs, provide accessible entertainment, help promote tourism spending and donate tens of millions of dollars in charitable contributions.

“With this proposal, MLB is willing to break the hearts of dozens of communities across the country,” Kelly said. “We are going to resist this plan and are gratified that so many in Congress are willing to join with us.”

***************

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, Dec. 3 Representatives Lori Trahan (D-MA), David McKinley (R-WV), Max Rose (D- NY), and Mike Simpson (R-ID) announced the official formation of the bipartisan Save Minor League Baseball Task Force.

At the group’s inaugural meeting, interested Members heard from Minor League Baseball (MiLB) President Pat O’Conner and several Minor League team owners. The group discussed strategy to continue the momentum on this urgent issue.

The Save Minor League Baseball Task Force will advocate on behalf of the communities that stand to be mostharmed by MLB’s plan to eliminate 42 minor league franchises. They will closely monitor ongoing negotiationsbetween MLB and MiLB as well as discuss potential legislative action if and when such a remedy becomes necessary.

“I am proud to launch this important Task Force with my co-chairs; Representatives McKinley, Rose, and Simpson," said Congresswoman Trahan. "Together along with our colleagues we will make perfectly clear that Congress is ready to defend ourcommunities, which stand to lose out in MLB’s proposal to slash the number of Minor League teams. The Lowell Spinners and other minor league teams across the United States provide critical economic and cultural benefits to the communities they call home, and Congress must have a voice in this conversation,”

"Baseball is America’s pastime, and minor league teams have a major impact on small communities across our country,” said Congressman McKinley. “While we understand the MLB has concerns: the idea that doingaway with 42 teams is the only solution is not reasonable. We look forward to working with MiLB and MLB tofind a compromise that will preserve affiliated baseball in these cities.”

“Major League Baseball can look at all the ‘sabermetrics’ it wants, but what they don’t understand is the serious impact that losing these baseball teams will have on our communities,” said Congressman Rose. “You won’t see it in any formula, but my colleagues and I have all seen the impact teams like the Staten IslandYankees can have on the faces of the children who show up at the ballpark every year. I’m proud to join this effort to urge the MLB to reconsider.”

“Baseball is America’s pastime and that pastime should not be exclusive to a select number of cities," said Congressman Simpson. "Minor League Baseball is at the heart of many small and rural cities in our country. To deprive those communities of baseball would not only deny them access to our national heritage, but it would also harm local economies that depend on minor league baseball organizations. I am proud to join my colleagues in starting this task force toensure baseball stays vibrant in communities like Idaho Falls and Boise."

A statement from MiLB: "Minor League Baseball values the support of Representatives Trahan, McKinley, Rose and Simpson and the entire Task Force for America’s pastime and for recognizing our positive contributions to their communities andlocal economies as well as dozens of others across the country. While it is our hope to negotiate a fair agreement with MLB, the overwhelming support from elected officials on both sides of the aisle, at all levels ofgovernment, has been tremendous and shows that baseball helps to unite our nation."

The formation of this task force follows a Trahan-McKinley led bipartisan effort along with 104 of their colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to urge MLB to abandon its plan to eliminate 42 Minor League teams.

November 20, 2019 - 2:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in baseball, sports, notify, muckdogs.

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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.

November 19, 2019 - 5:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, muckdogs, baseball, sports, notify.

It's early in the negotiations and officials with Minor League Baseball are working hard to save all the minor league ball clubs from the chopping block, a spokesman for Minor League Baseball said this evening.

"The game of baseball is just as important to Batavia and Auburn as it is in Charlotte or Indianapolis," said Jeff Lantz. "We want to see baseball grow and thrive and be a part of all of our communities."

He said it's unfortunate that word leaked that Major League Baseball floated a proposal to eliminate some minor league teams, and even more unfortunate that this week a list of teams MLB is proposing to be cut was leaked. Both Batavia and Auburn were on a list of New York Penn League clubs that could be scrapped if MLB is successful in reducing the number of minor league teams from 160 to 120.

"That's not good for anybody," Lantz said. "It's not good for Minor League Baseball. It's not good for the fans, and it's not good for the fans of Batavia and Auburn."

He said it's early in the process and MLB and its officials are meeting this week to negotiate. They'll meet again at the Winter Meetings in a couple of weeks to try and hammer out a deal.

"We'll find out their (MLB's) concerns," Lantz said. "I don't think there are any concerns that can't be addressed through negotiations and finding out the best way to go."

Asked if MLB holds all the cards, Lantz said, obviously, the Appalachian League (of) MLB owns all the franchises and can do with them as they please, but the rest of the teams have separate owners so their status does become a point of negotiation.

The Batavia Muckdogs are owned by the New York Penn League now, but the team's former owner, a community group -- Genesee County Baseball Club -- would receive a part of the proceeds if NYPL ever sold the club. If the club were sold and moved, members of the club have floated the idea of using the funds to start a baseball team in one of the leagues that provides summer baseball for college-level players.

Lantz referred questions about the team's ownership status and how that might play out in these negotiations to league president Ben Hayes.

The Batavian has been unable to reach Hayes although we've tried for the past couple of weeks.

General Manager Brendan Kelly said he was not authorized to talk about the status of the minor league clubs. We were also unable this evening to reach club President Brian Paris.

That said, Lantz confirmed, there will be a 2020 season for the Muckdogs in Batavia. The current contract between MiLB and MLB runs until Sept. 15, 2020.

"The good news is, that gives us 11 months to try to negotiate a deal," Lantz said.

Lantz said one thing that is helping the cause of Minor League Baseball is politicians speaking out to help save the teams in the communities they represent. He cited specifically a member of Congress from Massachusetts who got more than 100 other members of Congress to sign a petition to send to MLB asking MLB to protect these teams.

Sen. Charles Schumer has come out strongly in favor of keeping ball clubs in Batavia and Auburn.

“America’s favorite pastime should not become part of Upstate New York’s past," Schumer said. "It’s no secret that New York’s minor league teams are institutions within their communities, which is why I implore MLB to reconsider any such plans and will be reaching out to them directly to advocate for our New York teams."

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who along with her husband, Bill, is a big fan of the Muckdogs and has attended several games over the years, also sent out a couple of Tweets in support of protecting minor league teams in New York. In one, Hochul wrote, "Foul ball!? @MLB - please say this isn’t so. As the birthplace of baseball and home to the Baseball Hall of Fame, these teams are big economic drivers for our small towns and part of New York’s identity & culture."

UPDATE 8:25 p.m.: Genesee County Baseball Club President Brian Paris said he's had no conversations at this point with Ben Hayes or Minor League Baseball about the future of the Batavia Muckdogs, though he is mindful of the fact that the club has a financial stake in the outcome of negotiations. He noted that Major League Baseball enjoys an antitrust exemption, which could limit the leverage of ball club owners but, citing a Baseball America article, noted that terminating as many as 40 franchises could jeopardize baseball's always tenuous hold on its exemption (which is authorized by Congress). If the Muckdogs are ever sold, Paris noted, it's the intention of the club's board of directors that any proceeds from a sale (about half the value of the club, less operational losses sustained by the NYPL since the league took over) would be used to the benefit the community.

September 7, 2019 - 6:08am
posted by Billie Owens in muckdogs, sports, batavia, baseball.

Submitted photo and press release:

LOWELL, Mass. -- The incredible, award-winning and division championship season for Batavia Muckdogs came to an end Friday night as the Muckdogs fell to the Lowell Spinner, 4-3 in extra innings.

Joe Davis, who hit a walk-off-home run on Thursday night to stun Batavia, drove in the winning run in the 10th on an infield fielder's choice. The runner from third beat the throw home for the win.

Lowell (Red Sox) will take on Brooklyn (Mets) in the New York-Penn League best-of-three championships. It was a banner year not just for the Muckdogs, but the entire Miami Marlins minor league system.

Batavia had a game plan to get the most out of every pitcher on the staff as seven pitchers held Lowell to four runs while giving up 12 hits. Jackson Rose struck out two in 1.2 innings, then lefty Andrew Miller shut Lowell's runners down going an inning with a strikeout and no runs.

Miller's runners were stranded when Geremy Galindez came in and struck out two over 1.2 innings. Josh Simpson tossed two outs without giving up a run. M.D. Johnson had a two inning stint with two strikeouts and Brock Love continued his dominating season with four strikeouts in two innings. Evan Brabrand took the hard-luck loss, giving up the run in the 10th after two intentional walks with the winning run on third and one out.

Troy Johnston had two hits including a RBI double. Nic Ready also had a RBI double and J.D. Orr had a hit, two walks and stole two bases while scoring.

Harrison Dinicola, Nasim Nunez and Andres Stormes had hits.

There was one tough call against the Muckdogs in the bottom of the sixth with two outs. Batavia appeared to strikeout the final batter of the inning but the umpire believed the batter did not swing and the next pitch resulted in a RBI single tying the game.

Batavia finishes the season as Pinckney Division Champions and won Field of the Year from the New York-Penn League, an honor which will be presented again during the minor league winter meetings and awards.

Photo: Brock Love had a strong outing for Batavia, striking out four in two innings.

September 6, 2019 - 11:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in muckdogs, baseball, sports, batavia.

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Press release:

Joe Davis hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Lowell Spinners over the Batavia Muckdogs 2-1 in game two of the New York-Penn League playoffs.

With Brooklyn defeating Hudson Valley as both series are tied 1-1. The final game in both series will be Friday night. Batavia is at Lowell, Mass.

If Batavia and Hudson Valley win, the Muckdogs will have home field advantage in the championship series and play Sunday in Hudson Valley, with Monday and Tuesday games in Batavia. If Brooklyn wins, Batavia would host Brooklyn here on Sunday.

Lowell managed both run-off home runs, and received a record-breaking pitching performance by Yusneil Padron-Artilles, who struck out 12 in a row. The old record in the major leagues (Tom Seaver) was 10 and the minor league record was also 10.

Batavia had strong pitching as starter Julio Frias went 4.2 innings giving up one run and struck out five. Bryan Hoening was almost perfect going 3.1 innings, striking out seven and giving up just one hit. Joey Steele struck out one in the ninth and took the loss.

Lowell had just four hits. For Batavia, Milton Smith II was 2-for-3 and Nasim Nunez doubled and scored on a groundout from Dalvy Rosario.

Photo: Batavia starter Julio Frias went 4.2 innings and struck out five.

September 5, 2019 - 2:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in muckdogs, batavia, video, J.D. Orr.
Video Sponsor

Muckdogs fans have taken notice of outfielder J.D. Orr's unique base-running style.

Once Orr reaches base -- and he reaches base a lot, leading the NYPL with a .469 on-base percentage, Orr likes to hop back and forth, trying to time a hop just right to give him an extra step in a potential stolen base attempt.

The technique, which he said he learned from his college coach, has proven successful. Orr's 29 stolen bases is second in the league and he often gets free bases -- making a dash from first to third -- on wild pitches and passed balls when his movement gets inside the heads of the opposing battery. 

Orr was a 10th-round draft pick by the Miami Marlins this year from Mount Vernon, Ohio.

In the video, Orr discusses his technique.

See also:

September 5, 2019 - 10:32am
posted by Howard B. Owens in muckdogs, video, baseball, sports, batavia.
Video Sponsor

A couple of years ago players throughout the New York Penn League complained about the field at Dwyer Stadium and League President Ben Hayes wasn't happy with the situation.

On Wednesday night, less than two years after the Muckdogs hired Cooper Thomson as the team's new head groundskeeper, recruiting him from Australia, Hayes was on the field before the Muckdog's first post-season game since 2010 in an absolutely poetic mindset about the state of the field today.

"That's what makes baseball so special," Hayes said before Batavia's opening playoff series game against Lowell, which Batavia won 4-1. "When you see it on TV and you see how beautiful the outfield looks and how beautiful the infield looks, you know the beauty of that is an art and it's hard to find an artist like that."

Hayes announced to the fans before the game that Cooper, his assistant Joe Mogavero, and the rest of the crew were being credited with maintaining the NYPL "Field of the Year," and that Cooper was being named Groundskeeper of the Year.

"The guy has been president for a very long time and we talked early on in the piece about this field then the need for change in this field," Thomson said. "He's ecstatic with the changes and I'm glad that I can bring it to him and the team and make sure that Batavia isn't at the bottom anymore and we're setting the standards."

Previously:

September 5, 2019 - 10:04am
posted by Howard B. Owens in muckdogs, baseball, sports, batavia.

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Press release:

It was a banner night for the Batavia Muckdogs, on and "on" the field.

The Muckdogs won game one of the New York-Penn League playoffs with a 4-1 victory over the Lowell Spinners. The two teams play in Lowell, Mass., Thursday.

In the other series, Hudson Valley defeated Brooklyn, 5-4.

Before the game, New York-Penn League President Ben Hayes presented Batavia Muckdogs groundkeeper Cooper Thomson with the New York-Penn League Turf Manager of the Year and the coveted Field of the Year award.

Off the field, the Muckdogs had a crowd of 1,872, the fifth largest of the season at Dwyer for the playoff win.

Lefty Easton Lucas, a 2019 Miami Marlins 14th-round draft pick out of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., got the start and went three innings with shutout baseball allowing two hits and striking out four without a walk.

Lucas left the game with a 1-0 lead and Eli Villalobos earned the win, throwing 3.2 innings of perfect baseball with five strikeouts, no runs, no hits, no walks. Villalobos is a 14th-round Marlins draft pick out of California's Long Beach State.

Brock Love earned the hold by thawing 1.1 innings with three strikeouts and one hit. Evan Brabrand, as he has all season for Batavia, tossed the ninth to get the save.

At the plate, Nic Ready blasted a two-run home run and had two hits. J.D. Orr had a hit and a run, Troy Johnston had an RBI single and scored plus stole a base, Albert Guairmaro had two hits and an RBI and Milton Smith II had a single and stole a base.

Batavia shortstop Dalvy Rosario played outstanding defense and had two hits, a run and stole a base.

Photos by Jim Burns.

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