Ohio Gov. DeWine criticizes plan to cut 42 minor league baseball teams

The Dayton Dragon are not on the cut list, but some Midwest League members are.

Major League Baseball’s plan to cut 42 minor league teams, including the Scrappers in the Mahoning Valley, is a short-sighted move that could erode baseball’s future fan base, said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, whose family owns the Asheville Tourists in North Carolina.

The Dayton Dragons, Cincinnati’s Class A affiliate, are not on the cut list, but Midwest League members the Beloit (Wisc.) Snappers, Burlington (Iowa) Bees and Clinton (Iowa) LumberKings are.

“Ohio has six minor league teams, each one of which is important to their individual communities as far as the economy of the communities as well as being important to fans,” said DeWine, a lifelong baseball fan. “The long-term concern is if baseball does this, then when the next contract is up, they may eliminate more teams. So this is a real concern for the state of Ohio with six minor league teams.”

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He noted that the minor league attendance last year in Ohio was 2.25 million.

The Tourists, a Class A farm team for the Colorado Rockies, is owned by the governor, his wife and their children. Their son Brian DeWine runs the team, which is not on a list of teams potentially being cut according to a report last month by the New York Times.

Both rookie teams of the Cincinnati Reds — the Billings (Mont.) Mustangs and Greeneville (Tenn.) Reds — are on the reported cut list along with Chattanooga (Tenn.) Lookouts at Double-A and Daytona (Fla.) Tortugas at advanced Class A.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has publicly criticized the plan, and a bipartisan “Save Minor League Baseball Task Force” has been formed in the U.S. House to keep tabs on the matter.

Sanders, who is vying to be the Democratic nominee for President, met with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred earlier this week.

“MLB is committed to negotiating with Minor League Baseball to find solutions that balance the competing interests of local communities, MLB Clubs, minor league owners, and the young players who pursue their dream of becoming professional baseball players,” Manfred said in a statement. “We repeatedly have stated both publicly and privately to the minor leagues that whatever the outcome of the negotiations, MLB will offer every community that currently hosts professional baseball options to preserve baseball in a viable, fan-friendly, compelling format with the full support of MLB. We remain confident that solutions can be reached that satisfy the interests of all stakeholders.”

DeWine said minor league baseball is affordable and accessible for families and introduces kids to be lifelong fans.

“That’s what I think is so short sighted on behalf of this proposal where you’d knock off over 40 minor league baseball teams and take that entertainment and opportunity to form more fans. Major League Baseball will lose that and it may not have an impact immediately but in the long run it’s going to have an impact,” DeWine said. “So I think it would be a very short sighted decision.”

Under the uniform contract between the leagues, MLB pays player and coaches’ salaries, which makes minor league teams more economically viable.

DeWine said he likes the excitement of seeing gifted players trying to make it to the big leagues.

“These are all young players who are hustling and trying to live out their dream of making it to the major leagues,” DeWine told the Dayton Daily News. “It’s fun to watch them hustle. It’s fun to watch them play. It’s fun to watch them chase their dream.”