Mike DeWine goes to bat for Scrappers

Governor pens letter to commissioner to save minor leagues, Ohio teams

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple Eastwood Field at the Eastwood Mall Complex celebrated its 20th anniversary this past summer. It is home to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the short-season Class-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Major League Baseball officials are considering eliminating Minor League Baseball teams like the Scrappers and on Friday, Gov. Mike DeWine penned a letter to MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred Jr. asking him to reconsider.

NILES — “Baseball is the bloodstream of the American people,” wrote Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in a letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred Jr.

The letter, sent Friday, urges Manfred to reconsider eliminating any Minor League Baseball teams, including the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, which is among 42 teams that may lose their Major League Baseball player development contract for the 2021 season and beyond.

“Though I fully realize that baseball is a business, I think this shrinkage in Minor League Baseball — and the possible elimination of all the teams in Minor League Baseball — is a horrible business decision,” DeWine wrote.

Major League Baseball last year brought in an estimated 68-plus million fans, with Minor League Baseball adding 41 million more. DeWine pointed to the “inexpensive, wholesome family entertainment” of Minor League Baseball as a key factor in growing a fan base for America’s sport.

An Oct. 18 report in Baseball America cites “facility standards” and “significant distance of some clubs from their affiliates” as the major concerns with the 42 teams. In a November statement, the Niles-based Scrappers said the team currently meets the MLB’s facility standards and has good travel within the New York-Penn League.

Arguing for the preservation of the Scrappers, the Class-A (short season) affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, DeWine pointed to what he said are more than 4 million fans who have visited Eastwood Field since its construction in 1999. Last year alone, more than 200 events were hosted at Eastwood Field — bringing in 200,000 visitors, 99,000 of which attended Scrappers games, according to DeWine.

DeWine said the Scrappers also were at the top of the New York-Penn League charitable giving from 2015 to 2019, with more than $500,000 donated each year. He wrote that the Scrappers also employ more than 200 full-time and part-time employees each year — making the team an economic driver in the community.

DeWine also wrote that Ohio’s other five Minor League teams — the Dayton Dragons, the Toledo Mud Hens, the Lake County Captains, the Columbus Clippers and the Akron RubberDucks — feel “threatened” after December reports that Manfred discussed the possibility of eliminating the Minor League entirely.

“Minor League Baseball has a clear and profound impact on our state,” DeWine wrote. “These teams give back to their communities through in-kind gifts and tax receipts and are great promoters of tourism to Ohio.” DeWine said last year, Ohio’s six Minor League teams had a combined attendance of 2.25 million fans and contributed more than $2.4 million locally through charitable giving.

“It is a game built upon relationships with people — fans, families, communities,” DeWine wrote of baseball. “There exists, in a very real sense, an unwritten, unspoken social covenant among baseball and the people, uniting us and bringing us together.”