When the New York-Penn League was incorporated in 1939, it included teams in six western New York cities. Of those half-dozen locales, Batavia is the only one still fielding a team on the circuit.But the long-term future of the Muckdogs is very much in doubt. The Class A Short Season
When the New York-Penn League was incorporated in 1939, it included teams in six western New York cities. Of those half-dozen locales, Batavia is the only one still fielding a team on the circuit.
But the long-term future of the Muckdogs is very much in doubt. The Class A Short Season Marlins affiliate, operating out of Batavia's Dwyer Stadium, has finished last in the league in attendance the past three seasons. The last team to draw fewer fans than the Muckdogs was the Jamestown Jammers, who relocated to West Virginia following the 2014 season. This movement away from traditional markets with stagnant or declining populations has been a distinct trend within the league, which includes sports teams in eight states.
For the past 10 seasons, the Muckdogs were operated by Triple-A Rochester. The Red Wings assumed the cost of running the team, accumulating a 5 percent stake each season they did so. The team now owns 50 percent of the Muckdogs, with the local Gennesee County Baseball Club retaining the rest. This relationship will not continue in 2018.
As reported in The Batavian last month, the New York-Penn League has "blocked a proposal for the Rochester Red Wings to return to Batavia in 2018 as the operators of the Batavia Muckdogs." Instead, the circuit assumed control of the team. Naomi Silver, Red Wings president and CEO, didn't fault the league for its decision, stating that "the league could have prevented us from operating the team 10 years ago and they allowed us to operate it for 10 years."
The termination of the agreement with the Red Wings also marked the end of the line for the Genesee County Baseball Club's ownership of the team.
"It is with a powerful sense of sadness and loss, tempered by pride in our past and the hope of a faithful and resilient people for the future, that the Genesee County Baseball Club (GCBC) … announces the control of the franchise has been transferred to the New York-Penn League," the GCBC wrote in a press release.
The New York-Penn League is looking for a new owner for the Muckdogs, who would almost certainly move the team elsewhere. In the meantime, league president Ben Hayes told Batavia's Daily News that the NYPL is currently reviewing its options for the 2018 season and beyond.
On the horizon
A new Minor League Baseball stadium will open in 2018 and 2019. This year's entry is SRP Park, home of the Class A Augusta GreenJackets. The facility, part of the larger Riverside Village development project, is located across the Savannah River in North Augusta, South Carolina. Last month, in anticipation of the move, the GreenJackets unveiled a new set of logos.
In 2019, a new park will open in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The Fayetteville Observer reported Barton Malow, the stadium's general contractor, has awarded the majority of its subcontractor contracts thus far to "local contractors and those qualifying as disadvantaged." Fayetteville's ballpark will be home to the Houston Astros' Class A Advanced affiliate, a franchise entering its second and final season in Buies Creek. Prior to the move to Fayetteville, a new team name will be announced. The finalists are Woodpeckers, Wood Dogs, Jumpers, Fatbacks and Fly Traps.
The Pawtucket Red Sox have been involved in a long-running attempt to replace their longtime home of McCoy Stadium. A bill has been introduced within the Rhode Island State Senate to fund the new ballpark; the most recent version of this legislation was unveiled Jan. 2. The proposed new ballpark would cost approximately $85 million. The Providence Journal reported "the legislation says the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency would issue three series of bonds, which … the team, state and city would pay back, with revenue expected to be generated by the ballpark and ancillary development."
If funding for the ballpark isn't secured, the PawSox could relocate. Worcester, Massachusetts has long been mentioned as a possibility. Last month, as reported on MassLive.com, Pawtucket mayor Donald Grieben urged the Rhode Island General Assembly to vote on the legislation.
"All of this will now go to Worcester, Masschusetts, if the General Assembly does not act," he said.
Wichita wild card?
Wichita, Kansas has not hosted a Minor League Baseball team since the Texas League Wichita Wranglers relocated to Northwest Arkansas following the 2006 campaign. The city was mentioned as a possible locale for the Double-A San Antonio Missions, but Amarillo, Texas will host that franchise once San Antonio becomes a Triple-A city in 2019.
Nonetheless, Wichita may have Minor League Baseball in its future. Mayor Jeff Longwell told Wichita's KWCH that he has been in contact with the owner of an affiliated team about a possible relocation to Wichita. If a team did move there, a new ballpark would have to be built. Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, the home of the Wranglers, and more recently, the independent Wichita Wingnuts, is 83 years old.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.