One of Ohio’s most-ardent baseball fans is pleading with Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred not to eliminate 42 Minor League Baseball teams.
That fan’s name: Gov. Mike DeWine.
Major League Baseball has proposed eliminating up to 42 minor league teams after the 2020 season to improve facilities and conditions for the remaining teams. DeWine and his family own a minor league team, the Asheville Tourists, which is not among the 42.
One Ohio team is on the list: the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. The team employs 200 people between full- and part-time positions. About 4 million fans have visited Eastwood Field in Niles since it opened in 1999.
Many of the teams on the chopping block are among the lowest levels of affiliated teams. The Scrappers’ 6,000-person ballpark had an average attendance of 2,745 people in 2019, according to Baseball Park Digest.
In a letter to Manfred on Friday, DeWine made the case for minor league teams like the Scrappers.
“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.
None of Ohio’s remaining minor league teams, including the Dayton Dragons and Columbus Clippers, are on the list. Last year, Ohio’s six minor league teams had a combined attendance of 2.25 million fans.
Three Cincinnati Reds affiliates could be eliminated under the proposal: the Daytona Tortugas, Billings Mustangs and Greeneville Reds.
In his letter, DeWine pitched minor league baseball as a more cost-effective option to attract new fans to the game. Members of Congress, including Rep. Tim Ryan, whose district includes the Scrappers, and other governors have pleaded with Manfred for an alternative.
“By offering inexpensive, wholesome, family entertainment that serves as an introduction to the great game of baseball, Minor League Baseball is key to adding new – and young – fans!” DeWine wrote.
DeWine, who attended Opening Day in Cincinnati last year with Manfred, encouraged the commissioner to attend a Scrappers’ game.
“You can see first-hand what the team’s presence brings to the Mahoning Valley,” he wrote.
At times, DeWine even waxed poetic about the values that baseball can instill in its fans – fans like DeWine and his family.
“Baseball runs in the bloodstream of the American people,” DeWine wrote. “There exists, in a very real sense, an unwritten, unspoken social covenant among baseball and the people, uniting us and bringing us together.”