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Baseball set to make a return, but not completely

No path for Minor League Baseball to return in 2020 as teams await potential cuts
Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 7:05 PM EDT
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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV) - Get ready to sing take me out to the ballgame again, even if it's from your couch.

Major League Baseball is set to return next month with a 60-game season instead of the regular 162.

But that's not the case for Minor League Baseball.

There likely won't be a first pitch this season in small cities across the country, including West Virginia's four Minor Leauge cities.

"When folks start off the spring and into the summer, that's what fills our restaurants, that's what fills our downtown shops," Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin said. "That's part of a robust and thriving economy."

Coodwin’s city is home to the West Virginia Power. Like others across the country, her city is already in a bind due to revenue loss from the pandemic.

But losing baseball this summer may just be a preview of what's to come.

A proposal by Major League Baseball would eliminate more than 40 Minor League teams across the country, including three of West Virginia's four teams in Charleston, Bluefield and Princeton.

"Not only are the lack of games and play hurting us now. To lose something like the Power would be devastating to the city," Goodwin said.

Various industries in local economies are already missing out on revenue from not having baseball this summer.

"You can see that trickle-down effect regarding what we aren't doing right now," said Matt Drayer, the general manager of the West Virginia Black Bears in Morgantown.

His team is the only one in the state safe under baseball's proposed reduction.

Many of the teams on baseball's list to cut have outdated facilities, but some of them have poured millions of dollars into their facilities in recent years, or have relatively new stadiums.

"The initial list is just way off, based on my own personal opinion," Drayer said.

He pointed to teams in the New York Penn League that have recently updated their facilities or already have Major League-caliber ballparks.

The West Virginia Power's home, Appalachian Power Park, just opened in 2005.

"I can see their issues, but you could also give a team a situation where they can make those improvements," Drayer said. "I could see a lot of teams in a lot of cities say, 'Okay, if we have to do this to keep our team, then we'll do it.' It's great for team pride, city pride, all of the other non-gameday events that are held at these ballparks, and all of the community support that these teams do.

"There's a lot more than just the dollars and cents when it comes to retracting baseball teams."

Governors and Congress have even stepped in with multiple letters and bills to help save baseball in cities across the country.

But even for the teams that do stay, losing this season could have a ripple effect down the line.

“The shortfalls and the huge revenue losses that Minor League Baseball teams across the country are really going to impact what we can and can’t do next year,” Drayer said.

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