News of Major League Baseball’s proposal to cut parent-club affiliations with 42 minor league clubs has hit the halls of government, including West Virginia.
Politicians in the Mountain State are decrying the proposal, especially since three of the four minor league teams in West Virginia — the Princeton Rays, Bluefield Blue Jays and West Virginia Power — are on the list. Those concerns can be heard from from the State Capitol to Capitol Hill.
The current agreement between MLB and Minor League Baseball that keeps Charleston, Bluefield and Princeton in the fold expires at the end of the 2020 season. MLB wants to streamline the minor leagues, cutting down from 160 teams to 120, severing ties with 42 current teams and adding two independent clubs.
Gov. Jim Justice said he had been in contact Tuesday with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and the two have agreed to meet “very soon.”
“I am confident we can show Commissioner Manfred what a fantastic partner MLB has in the great state of West Virginia,” Justice said in a statement emailed Tuesday. “Simply put, these teams have to be preserved for all involved and the goodness of our communities.”
Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., has been joined by Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., in leading the cause in the U.S. House of Representatives. The two put together a letter sent to the MLB front office and every owner — signed by a bipartisan group of 106 congresspeople — stating their “firm opposition” to the proposal.
“The abandonment of Minor League clubs by Major League Baseball would devastate our communities, their bond purchasers and other stakeholders affected by the potential loss of these clubs,” the letter states. “We want you to fully understand the impact this could have not only on the communities we represent, but also on the long-term support that Congress has always afforded our national pastime on a wide variety of legislative initiatives.”
Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., added her signature to the 106 on the letter.
Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also chimed in, reminding both MLB and Minor League Baseball in a statement emailed Tuesday that minor league clubs have been a part of West Virginia for decades. Minor league baseball began in Charleston in 1910, while Bluefield has fielded a team since 1937 and Princeton has housed a club since 1988.
“Minor league baseball has become a part of the fabric of many West Virginia towns,” Capito said. “I have stressed to both Major League and Minor League Baseball my hope and encouragement to work together and also with the impacted communities and franchises. We have to communicate openly and honestly to understand the proposals and impacts fully.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also said he was contacting everyone he knows with MLB and will ask them to “consider the consequences” of eliminating the parent-club ties with those minor league teams.
“Our national pastime has a rich history in West Virginia, and for generations, minor league baseball has brought our communities together and introduced countless youth to the sport,” he said in a statement released Tuesday. “They need to understand the negative economic impact that this will have on our communities and that West Virginians have a true love for the game.”