Major League Baseball has proposed eliminating 42 minor league baseball teams after the Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) expires between the two at the end of the 2020 season. MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem stated that the reductions are to focus on upgrading facilities with “inadequate standards for potential MLB players,” improving working conditions for players, improving transportation and hotel accommodations, providing better geographic affiliations for major league clubs, and better geographic lineups of leagues to reduce player travel.
The responses I’ve seen to this proposal across social media have been universally negative -- in that, fans don’t want to see MiLB teams go. I am one of those people who would be upset to see these cuts happen.
I was introduced to baseball through the minor leagues. I am a Rochester, New York native and grew up going to Rochester Red Wings (current Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins and former affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles) games with my family. I also interned with the team for a season as a media relations assistant. I learned a lot about baseball, both as a fan and on the business side, from this club.
Every baseball fan I’ve ever talked to enjoys baseball for some nostalgic reason or another. Playing catch with mom or dad, going to games as a kid, and lining up for autographs are popular memories amongst us fans. The Red Wings have a Knot Hole Gang club for kids where they can get tickets at reduced prices and other special offers. Minor league baseball makes baseball accessible for families who don’t live near a major league team and/or can’t afford to attend major league games.
When I think of how much teams can mean to a city, I think of the time in 1956 when the St. Louis Cardinals decided to sell the Red Wings and Morrie Silver, a Rochester businessman and devoted fan, created a stock drive to save the team and keep it in Rochester. The stock drive was successful and the team has been owned by the Silvers and Rochester Community Baseball ever since.
While the Red Wings are not one of the teams currently on the possible chopping block, I can imagine that the fans living in the places that are care about their teams just as much as the Red Wings’ fans did in 1956. No Cubs affiliates are on the list to be cut, either, but that’s not to say any team couldn’t be in jeopardy in the future.
I know that baseball is a business, but it’s disheartening to think of these places losing their baseball team. One complaint I often hear is that younger generations aren’t interested in baseball, and taking away a local team certainly won’t help that. I don’t know that I would have become such a huge baseball fan if I hadn’t had easy and affordable access to a team during the summer. It was fun to see guys play in Triple A and then head up to the big leagues. It felt special to see them play in the more intimate setting of the minors before they made it to the bigs.
Another reason these proposed cuts bother me so much is because there have been several issues in recent seasons where it seems that MLB doesn’t care about the fans. Teams have to make revenue, I get that, and not all MiLB teams are as successful as others, but this just seems like a slap-in-the-face solution.
There's been a lot of scrutiny for the low wages paid to minor league players, but I'm also concerned for the other people who work in and around the ballpark. The teens working the concession stands for a summer job, the groundskeepers, the ticket booth workers -- all of these jobs would be eliminated in communities that may not have many other opportunities for employment.
Many are saying that these cuts are not likely to happen, and I hope they’re right. Baseball is a lot of things, but for me it started out as a fun way to spend time with my family and enjoy a sport that I felt connected to. I hope MLB doesn’t choose to sever all the potential connections that could be made in the future by getting rid of minor league teams.