Mayors’ Task Force formed to help save MiLB teams

Chattanooga (Tenn.) Mayor Andy Berke, Dayton (Ohio) Mayor Nan Whaley and Columbia (S.C.) Mayor Steve Benjamin have joined together to create the “Mayors’ Task Force to Save Minor League Baseball.” The task force was formed after Major League Baseball’s original proposal to eliminate 42 minor league teams was made public in late 2019.

The Professional Baseball Agreement between MLB and MiLB is set to expire after the 2020 season, leaving some teams in the MiLB system unsure about their future with talks of elimination.

This task force was formed after a Congressional Task Force was established in December. Berke noted that 25 mayors in total have joined the coalition in the hours leading up to Wednesday’s conference call with media outlets which lasted nearly an hour.

“It’s because all of us understand this plan is a Major League error,” Berke said. “We think that there is a huge following of Major League baseball fans who also love Minor League Baseball in all of our cities and we want to make sure that they get a chance to enjoy it in places like Chattanooga, Dayton, Columbia and all over the country.”

The task force is hoping to voice the opinion of citizens in cities with Minor League Baseball teams across the country in an attempt to prevent them from being eliminated.

“I heard the commissioner say he wanted to expand baseball and expand baseball in places where it’s harder to reach. … To put a city on the chopping block like Chattanooga is, and other places like Mahoning Valley, I think it’s questionable for future of baseball and puts a bad taste in mouth of mayors in the country who put an investment in baseball,” Whaley said.

“As this discussion moves forward, we want to make sure Minor League Baseball has a key role and is expanded, not contracted, because we’ve seen such a benefit for our communities. We think that’s a way forward for baseball.”

Mahoning Valley is one of the teams in the New York-Penn League, which was among the leagues mentioned with teams considered for elimination. Williamsport Crosscutters principal owner Peter Freund assured fans that the Cutters would not be eliminated at the Crosscutters annual Hot Stove Banquet last week at the Genetti Hotel.

The mayors were asked if the task force was involved in talking to MLB about reaching out to the owners of affiliates such as the Williamsport Crosscutters, who were mentioned by name in the call.

“The three chairs did a call with Major League Baseball last week and we tried to make sure that we get their point of view,” Berke said. “We made our point of view clear in the importance of this to our communities. As the Minor League teams and Major League teams continue this conversation, we want to continue to make sure we aren’t sidelined. We want to be in the game.”

Ultimately, the task force is hoping to represent those in small areas and be part of the discussion with Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball and the Congressional Task Force.

“We’re each in discussions with fellow reps, state reps, Congress folks, even Ohio governor with this issue,” Whaley said. “I know that we’ll continue to see ways that we can all work together. I think it’s refreshing to see Congress agree with mayors. I think that speaks volumes how everyone’s on same page on this issue.”