For Sale: One Class A Short Season Minor League Baseball Club

The 1981 Batavia Trojans

Daddy Warbucks, if you’re out there, this would be a good time to come forward and save the day.

Or perhaps this would be the point in the movie when Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland would give a rousing speech and rally the citizens of Genesee County to pool their money and buy the club.

Or maybe the citizens of Bedford Falls will rush out in the snow to help out good ol’ George Bailey, and save the Building and Loan.

Alas, there is more depressing news on the Muckdogs Financial Situation as reported by WBTA. Link Here:

$6 Million Dollars is the estimated asking price, based on the recent sale of the NY Penn League Oneonta club. Hard to believe anyone with that kind of scratch is going to keep the ‘Dogs in B-town instead of looking for a bigger market somewhere else.

Let’s face it, the Muckdogs attendance average of 1,100 is almost 10% of the population of Batavia. The Triple-A Rochester Red Wings by contrast, draw an average of 6,900 per game from a city of 220,000 people, (1 Million if you throw in the surrounding communities). The Muckdogs NY Penn league rivals the Brooklyn Cyclones drew 7,300 per game in 2008 in the Megalopolis of Brooklyn fer cryin’ out loud.

Think about that for a minute. A Class A short season team in a Giant Metro area can outdraw a Triple A franchise in a Regional Metro Area. You don’t need a Harvard MBA to figure out that it’s the size of the market, not the quality of the ball club that determines profitability in Minor League Baseball.

When you consider the attendance figures of Rochester, and Brooklyn, the numbers for the Muckdogs actually seem impressive for a city of 15,000 people. In fact, if I could pull the attendance figures for the last 30 years of Batavia baseball, I’d be willing to bet that they draw more people in 2010 than they have in 90% of their seasons since the 1970’s. Despite the spin from Rochester Community Baseball, and St. Louis Cardinals organization, it’s not a lack of community support that is killing the team, but the ballooning operating costs that Minor League Baseball clubs have incurred since the MiLB Baseball’s Facilities Standards went into effect in 1991.

Of course, MLB Incorporated doesn’t want to sell that message. Better to blame the citizens that stand to lose the franchise they supported since 1939, than highlight the insatiable need to grow the profit margins of MLB Inc.

Look, I’m a businessman. I understand the economics of it, but it still makes me sick. So I say “to hell with them” Batavia. You deserve better. I know the good folks of GCBC would keep the club in Batavia if they could, but they can’t and it isn’t your fault. Don’t let them lay the guilt on your heads. You put up a good fight, and spent countless summer evenings in that dusty wooden grandstand supporting a bunch of ball playing kids from all over America, and the Caribbean. Year in and year out, you were there, buying 50/50 club raffle tickets, peanuts, and cold cups of Genesee Beer, living out the lives of small town American’s that we so claim to love, and cherish. You were there.

It wasn’t these folks in the first baseline bleacher seats when Bernardo Brito jacked a homerun into the City Pool. It was guys like Russ Salway that were there, stomping their feet in the bottom of the ninth, with the winning run at the plate, until the dust from the rafters rained down on their heads. The Muckdogs are Batavia’s team. Not a trademarked property of MiLB.

The old Dwyer

So when some businessman from Hamilton, or Missasauga, buys the club and moves them to Canada (bad stuff in Batavia is always the fault of Canadians) and renames them the “Tim Horton’s” or “Butler’s Rangers”, don’t hang your head. Baseball in Batavia will live on so long as there is a ball, and a bat and nine guys willing to play the game on the corner of Denio and Bank Street. The dark forces of Corporatization can take your affiliation away, and sell it to the highest bidder, but they can’t take away your soul.

(But the Lord knows they would if they could.)

Bury My Heart at Dwyer Stadium

Ahem… sorry about that screed. Whew! Glad I vented that one.

Now, in all seriousness, and sobriety, I do wonder what will happen if GCBC sells the team. GCBC is a non-profit set up to own and operate the Muckdogs. If the team does indeed sell for $6 Million, they will net around $5 Million of that with the remainder going to Rochester Community Baseball. Even when the debts are paid off, they will still be holding a nice size chunk of dough. What the heck do they do with it?

Personally, I think the best option for GCBC is to pursue a team in the NY Collegiate Baseball League, as I mention here. But will College Summer baseball eventually fall prey to the same economics that Minor League baseball has?

My investigation of the Northwoods League suggest that local interest can be satisfied by the quality and competitiveness of College Summer baseball, and the economics of the amateur game are still amenable to small town teams like Batavia. Hell, with MiLB abandoning the Muckdog trademark, GCBC could even step in and buy the rights to the name and logo and continue to call the team the Muckdogs if they wanted.

So, there may be a silver lining in this cloud after all. In the long run if high level amateur baseball can take root in Batavia I think the community would be much better served. Now the trick is to make it happen.


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