While baseball fans in Batavia stand a chance to lose in the potential sale of the Muckdogs, Rochester Community Baseball may just come out a winner.
It was nearly two-and-a-half years ago that RCB stepped in and saved the Batavia Muckdogs franchise from folding. RCB, which also owns the Rochester Red Wings, offered to pay off the Batavia team's debts -- roughly $140,000 -- and also operate the team on a day-to-day basis.
Naturally, that offer that was gladly taken up by the City of Batavia and the Genesee County Baseball Club.
Soon after inheriting operations, the Muckdogs poured $87,000 into repairing the field at Dwyer Stadium, which had seen plenty of abuse from both high school baseball games and youth football matches in the outfield grass.
In the first year, RCB would lose about a quarter of a million dollars. In 2009, RCB took another hit -- in the neighborhood of $120,000. That's a rough total of $370,000 that RCB willingly ate in just two years.
Though numbers for this year obviously aren't yet final, early estimates say another $120,000 deficit is within reason, taking into account inflation and the economy. All told, that would be about $500,000 in losses taken by RCB to operate the team over the past three years.
However -- and this is where things get interesting -- one contract stipulation in the original deal is often glossed over: each year RCB operated the Muckdogs, they were to acquire 5 percent ownership of the franchise, with a 10-year cap on that deal (RCB could not own more than 50 percent of the team). After this third year of operation, RCB will own 15 percent of the Muckdogs franchise.
If they drop the day-to-day operations, as is "likely" according to today's news release, they cannot gain any further ownership in the team. Thus, if the team is sold following this season, RCB will receive 15 percent of the sale price.
Since teams in the NY-Penn League are not sold at a rapid rate, the general value of a ballclub is estimated by the league's most recent sale.
In 2008, the Oneonta Tigers were sold for about $6 million (they were moved out of their hometown this winter, and became the Connecticut Tigers this summer). Though terms of that sale were never officially released, $6 million is the accepted figure whispered among the league, as reported by GCBC Board Member and NY-Penn League expert Wayne Fuller.
Thus, the sale value of the Batavia Muckdogs and every other team in the league is $6 million.
That, of course, does not mean the team will be sold for that much; however, it is in the best interest of the NY-Penn League and Major League Baseball that the team not sell for much less than that. When one team sells for less than $6 million, every team in the league will likewise depreciate in value.
If the team does in fact sell for $6 million, RCB will receive 15 percent -- roughly $900,000. With a $500,000 operating loss, that factors out to a $400,000 profit. Even if the Muckdogs were to sell for $4 million, 15 percent of that is still $600,000 -- an overall $100,000 gain for RCB.
Attorney for the GCBC, Tom Williams, says he doesn't believe RCB brokered the deal with the plan to turn a profit by selling the team.
"I think they made a good-faith effort to make (the team) profitable," says Williams, "and then they just decided that they don't want to continue on. But I think they did it with the best of intentions, and they have been very honorable all the way through."
WBTA's Wayne Fuller, a member of the GCBC Board of Directors, says that in 2007, when the Muckdogs were also in trouble, the GCBC was told that the NY-Penn League could take over the franchise if the club failed to generate sufficient finances.
The same is a possibility here -- if the GCBC and RCB fail to generate enough money to run the club, and no buyer is found, the league does have the ability to absord the franchise -- which would leave the GCBC and RCB without any money. So it's in the best interest of both clubs to sell or continue operating the team.
Williams isn't yet worried about the possibility of losing the Muckdogs to the league.
"I think that we would find something to do before that happened," he says. "We expect that we're going to get some interest in the team. If it's just flat and there's absolutely no interest, then I think we're going to have to look that and decide what we're going to do.
"But I really don't think that's going to happen...I don't think we'll have that problem."