Connecticut Tigers on list of minor league teams proposed to be eliminated

Norwich — With multiple media outlets on Sunday and Monday listing the Connecticut Tigers among the 42 teams slated to be eliminated under Major League Baseball’s plan to overhaul the minor league system, team and city officials are gearing up to fight the plan.

The Major League Baseball overhaul plan became public a month ago and would be enacted after the 2020 baseball season. It calls for eliminating the short-season leagues, including the 14-team Short Season Class A New York-Penn League that the Connecticut Tigers play in, and cutting the Major League amateur draft from 40 to 20 rounds.

MLB would create and run a so-called “Dream League” of unaffiliated teams in some of the cities losing their teams, fielded with undrafted players trying to catch the eyes of major league scouts.  

According to lists published Sunday and Monday by the New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Ballpark Digest, the Connecticut Tigers team are among nine teams in the New York-Penn League set to be eliminated. Four others would be converted to higher-level Class A, and the Brooklyn Cyclones would move to the AA Eastern League. The Tigers also would not be part of the Dream League.

Connecticut Tigers Senior Vice President CJ Knudsen declined to comment Monday, referring questions to Minor League Baseball spokesman Jeff Lantz, who was not available to comment.

Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom said he discussed the issue with Knudsen on Monday, and Knudsen told the mayor that minor league and major league officials will meet Thursday to discuss the controversial plan.

Nystrom said Minor League Baseball officials are seeking assistance from about 60 congressmen who represent the 42 affected cities and towns, including U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District. Courtney could not be reached to comment Monday night.

Nystrom said Norwich will reach out to the other cities and towns to discuss how they can fight the proposal.

“We have a new 10-year lease with the Tigers that was approved by all parties,” Nystrom said. “It was signed off on by Major League Baseball. They approved it.”

The new lease starts with the 2020 baseball season.

Along with that agreement, the Tigers announced plans to change the team name. Fans this fall voted on five finalist names, and the Tigers plan to hold a media event in the coming weeks to announce the new name. Knudsen said Monday the proposal would not affect the name change plans.

John LeVangie of Norwich, a Connecticut Tigers season ticketholder, said Monday he was angry at what he called a power grab by Major League Baseball. LeVangie urged the City Council Monday night to contact Congress and seek the end of Major League Baseball's anti-trust exemption.

c.bessette@theday.com

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