America’s pastime could be getting a haircut with Major League Baseball (MLB) proposing to cut 42 teams from the minor leagues.
While Michigan’s three minor league teams are safe, there’s enough concern for the future of the game that lawmakers have a House resolution calling on the MLB to avoid cuts.
House Resolution 216 sponsor state Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) testified in front of the House Commerce and Tourism Committee on Thursday about the cultural and economic benefits teams bring to cities.
“Whether or not you’re a baseball fan, it is clear that these teams mean so much to our communities,” Anthony said. “I’m pretty sure this is just a homerun resolution.”
The pun, which referred to the jobs created and businesses established thanks to the teams, was met with groans slipping into laughter by committee members.
The committee adopted a substitute for the resolution on a 10-1 vote.
The resolution reviews the MLB’s plan to raise salaries for minor league teams by cutting teams and asserts that cuts are unnecessary, as the MLB generated a record $10.7 billion in revenue during the 2019 season. With the MLB’s plan setting a precedent to eliminate teams in the future, the resolution urges the MLB to continue supporting teams.
Lansing Mayor Andy Schor testified on behalf of his city, home of the Lansing Lugnuts, but also said he supports the Great Lakes Loons in Midland and the West Michigan Whitecaps in Grand Rapids.
Mayors all over the country are concerned about their teams either being on the list to be cut or being next, Schor testified. As a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, he said the idea of losing a large part of tourism has been received poorly nationally.
When the Lugnuts came to town, it transformed the area to what is now known around the country as a “stadium district,” Schor said. It altered the district from a barren park district with a few pornography shops to an extension of downtown Lansing, which businesses have flocked to.
“We were the first stadium anywhere to literally put condos over the stadium where you can live in the outfield, but within a mile, you got Urbandale, you’ve got the east side where you’ve got a lot of [Michigan State University] students living,” Schor said. “We have a tremendous diversity of incomes, and because these are affordable tickets, you see all of them at the games.”
Schor said he had conversations with officials at the Great Lakes Loons Stadium and Dow Diamond and they said the stadium has had the same positive impact for their downtowns.
According to Baseball America, the MLB is seeking to dramatically improve minor league stadiums by cutting down the number of teams it funds as the Professional Baseball Agreement between the Major and minor league teams expires at the end of the 2020 season.
But state Rep. John Reilly (R-Oakland Twp.), said as a member of the small group of people who believes in the free market, he doesn’t think the House should enact a resolution calling on the MLB to keep teams.
“I love baseball. I just see the government as not the one to make these determinations because they’re not as powerful and accurately doing things as the marketplace does,” Reilly said. “So what do you tell the people who believe that the government’s role is not here, this is the role of the marketplace.”