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Stay calm, but work to save local MiLB team

Few would dispute that baseball truly is America’s pastime.

That’s why so many of us were alarmed when word broke last week that the end of minor league baseball’s player development contact with Major League Baseball in 2021 could spell demise for many minor league teams, including the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

The Mahoning Valley Scrappers, now entering their 22ndseason at Cafaro Field in Niles, is the Class A (short season) affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.

The Scrappers are listed among the 25 percent of minor league teams that may lose their Major League Baseball player development contract beginning in 2021.

According to a report in Baseball America, MLB’s desire to restructure the player development contract with some minor league clubs and leagues — including the New York-Penn League in which the Scrappers play — is based on things like “facility standards” and “significant distance of some clubs from their affiliates.” These are cited as major concerns for the 42 teams on the list.

The Scrappers organization reacted quickly to the news reports last week in an attempt to allay fears.

…Although MLB has stated publicly its main concerns are facility standards and significant distance of some clubs from their affiliates, the Scrappers currently meet MLB’s facility standards and have good travel within the New York-Penn League,” the Scrappers organization stated to media.

We agree that the Scrappers stadium, located on Cafaro Company property as part of Eastwood Mall complex, has been kept according to league standards. It was only last year that Cafaro and team officials announced upgrades to the facility’s scoreboard, sound system and concession areas. The team also recently replaced its field surface and built an addition to the clubhouse containing a weight room and area for the players. Both were done last offseason at a cost of almost $600,000.

The Scrappers further noted in last week’s media statement that they also have good travel within their league.

Still, teams in their league did travel considerable distances. For example, the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Tampa Bay Rays Class A affiliate, traveled more than six hours by bus from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., to Niles for a series in July. Last season, the Scrappers’ traveled about 5 1/2 hours by bus to Aberdeen, Md., to play the Baltimore Orioles affiliate; along with trips to Auburn, N.Y., about 4 1/2 hours by bus; and to fields in Staten Island, N.Y.; State College, Pa.; Williamsport, Pa.; and more.

While no one wants to see the Scrappers lose their affiliation with the hometown favorite Cleveland Indians – or any MLB affiliation – we agree with the Scrappers’ assessment that we should remain calm and not overreact while talks are underway.

To view the opportunity optimistically, perhaps these discussions could open the door to new analysis of the league makeup and to ensure more limited travel. All indications already point to plans by the MLB to force more regular upgrades to stadiums where their minor league teams play. We see that plan as reasonable in order for both the fans and these young players to have good experiences.

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