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House, Senate United In Bipartisan Push to Preserve Baseball’s Minor Leagues

March 13, 2020 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – Members of both the House and Senate are enthusiastically reaching across the aisle in a bid to fend off a proposal by Major League Baseball to drop big league affiliation with 42 minor league teams.

Major League Baseball is seeking a new deal with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues due to the costs of maintaining a minor league team and its players.

Under Major League Baseball’s proposal, 13 teams would close and 29 clubs would lose their affiliation.

The current deal between MLB and the association is set to expire at the end of the current season, which has now been postponed due to the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, the House unanimously approved a resolution asking the Government Accountability Office to study the financial impact of minor league baseball teams in their respective communities, and “evaluate the social … and historic contributions that minor league baseball has made to American life and culture.”

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the report would cost less than $500,000, with any spending being subject to the availability of appropriated funds.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., whose state could potentially lose three teams under the MLB proposal, said on the House floor that minor league baseball “is a point of pride” in many cities and small towns, providing affordable family-friendly entertainment and bringing “people together for an afternoon at the ballpark.”

“Why is Congress involved?” McKinley continued. “You have to understand, for the most part, Major League Baseball controls the destiny of minor leagues, and they should not be allowed to bully these small communities into submission. Our goal is to level the playing field for these small towns, and ensure that they have a voice on this matter.”

McKinley is a member of the bipartisan Save Minor League Baseball Task Force.

The other members are Reps. David Trone, D-Md.; Max Rose, D-N.Y.; Mike Simpson, R-Idaho,; and Lori Trahan, D-Mass., who said, “These communities deserve better than to be forgotten. They deserve better than to be considered merely in the context of a balance sheet.

“These communities have supported their teams through thick and thin, and they produce the talent that we all see on the baseball diamond at the major league level,” she added.

The House is not alone in trying to save minor league baseball. A bipartisan coalition of Senators is pursuing the same goal.

They’ve introduced a resolution to support the preservation of minor league baseball clubs in 160 communities across the United States; recognize the unique social, economic, and historical contributions that Minor League Baseball has made to the lives and culture of the people of the United States; and encourage the continuation in 160 communities across the United States of the 117-year foundation of minor league baseball through the continued affiliation of the minor league baseball clubs in those communities with Major League Baseball.

“As a lifelong baseball fan, I know what the sport means to our state and how proud we are of our Ohio teams as we rally together to support local clubs like the Mahoning Valley Scrappers,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

“For 20 years, the Scrappers have been a staple of summers in the region, launching the careers of MLB stars and bringing Valley families together. I will continue to call on MLB to do the right thing and work with state and local leaders to keep baseball in the Valley and in local communities across the country,” he said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is also supporting the resolution, noting the presence of three minor league teams in his state.

“Baseball is part of our country’s rich history,” Grassley said. “Growing up and going to baseball games with your friends and family is something that Americans all across the country have in common. I want Iowans to continue to have access to Minor League Baseball. Each and every team in the state plays an important role in their communities.”

The other co-sponsors of the resolution are Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.;  Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Edward J. Markey, D-Mass.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Tim Kaine, D-Va.; and Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

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