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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Congressional task force formed to 'Save Minor League Baseball'

    The Connecticut Tigers warm up June, 15, 2016, during a team practice on media day at Dodd Stadium in Norwich. A bipartisan group of congressmen who represent districts in danger of losing their minor league baseball teams has formed the Save Minor League Baseball Task Force to contest a proposal by Major League Baseball to overhaul the minor league system. (Tim Cook/The Day)
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    A bipartisan group of congressmen who represent districts in danger of losing their minor league baseball teams has formed the Save Minor League Baseball Task Force to contest a proposal by Major League Baseball to overhaul the minor league system.

    The Connecticut Tigers in Norwich is among 42 teams that would be eliminated under the plan to contract the minor league system, cut the amateur draft from 40 to 20 rounds and invite undrafted players to compete on teams in a low-level independent try-out league. The New York-Penn League, which includes the Connecticut Tigers, would be eliminated in the plan.

    The congressional task force was formed Tuesday by U.S. Reps. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., David McKinley, R-W.V., Max Rose, D-N.Y., and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. The group held an inaugural meeting Tuesday with minor league baseball President Pat O’Conner and several minor league team owners, according to a news release issued Wednesday announcing the group.

    “The Save Minor League Baseball Task Force will advocate on behalf of the communities that stand to be most harmed by MLB’s plan to eliminate 42 minor league franchises,” the release said. “They will closely monitor ongoing negotiations between MLB and MiLB as well as discuss potential legislative action if and when such a remedy becomes necessary.”

    Trahan, whose district includes Lowell, Mass., which is slated to lose the Lowell Spinners, also in the New York-Penn League, led the congressional effort in November to send a letter to Major League Baseball, signed by 106 congressmen representing districts slated to lose teams, asking MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred to abandon the plan. U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd, signed that letter.

    The Connecticut Tigers, which will announce a new team name and logo Thursday in conjunction with a new 10-year lease to play at the Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium in Norwich, on Wednesday issued a news release praising the congressional task force.

    “We appreciate the support of Rep. Lori Trahan, David McKinley and the members of the task force in standing up for Minor League Baseball and speaking out against MLB’s effort cast off thousands of jobs, reduce affordable, family-friendly entertainment and undermine grassroots support for our great game,” Connecticut Tigers General Manager Dave Schermerhorn said in the news release.

    On Tuesday, Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom sent a letter to the top elected officials in the 41 other cities and towns in danger of losing their teams, asking them to unite to fight the plan. Nystrom welcomed the announcement of the congressional task force and discussed the issue with Connecticut Tigers Senior Vice President CJ Knudsen on Wednesday. He also forwarded the congressional news release to Gov. Ned Lamont, who also expressed his support Tuesday for the effort to keep the Connecticut Tigers.

    “It’s got to happen,” Nystrom said of a combined effort. “All of us have to get out of our comfort zones and get in the field and get involved."

    Nystrom said Norwich officials are putting together a strategy, including information on the Tigers’ value to the city and region, and will contact the congressional task force.

    “We will make perfectly clear that Congress is ready to defend our communities, which stand to lose out in MLB’s proposal to slash the number of Minor League teams,” Rep. Trahan said in the task force release. “The Lowell Spinners and other minor league teams across the United States provide critical economic and cultural benefits to the communities they call home, and Congress must have a voice in this conversation.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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