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Spotlight: Burlington Royals (N.C. – Appalachian League)

SaveMiLB Spotlight Series: Burlington Royals
Appalachian League (Rookie)
MLB Affiliate: Kansas City Royals
Burlington, NC

Burlington Athletic Stadium:



If you love Minor League Baseball there are few places better to be than Burlington, North Carolina. The city of 53,000 is located smack-dab in the middle of one of biggest hotbeds of Minor League Baseball in the country and is home to the Burlington Royals, North Carolina’s lone representative in the Appalachian League (Rookie). For ten weeks each summer Burlington Athletic Stadium and the surrounding municipal park are home to the city’s biggest attractions, allowing fans to catch a game in the early evening and enjoy music, fireworks, and festivals that run into the night.

The ballpark has a long and unique history. The stadium itself was originally built and used 40 miles away in Danville, Virginia. From 1945 to 1958, the stadium was home to the Danville Leafs of the Carolina League, and featured MLB stars from that era including Bill White, Manny Mota, and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. When the team folded following the ’58 season the company that owned the ballpark wanted to replace the stadium with a shopping center. Instead of demolishing the ballpark, the company sold the stadium to the City of Burlington, NC for $5,000. As part of the deal, the ballpark would be disassembled, shipped, and rebuilt in Burlington, where it would become home to the Burlington Indians of the Carolina League. Over the next five seasons future stars like Carl Yazstremski, Rusty Staub, Jim Bouton, Luis Tiant and many others passed through Burlington on their way to the bigs.

From 1965 to 1986, the ballpark was home to local independent teams before returning to affiliated ball as the Burlington Indians, this time of the Appalachian League. For the next 20 seasons Burlington would be the first stop on the way to “The Jake” for future stars such as Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Bartolo Colon before becoming an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals in 2007.

Prior to the 2019 season the city of Burlington invested $1.2 million dollars in renovations to the ballpark, including upgraded bathrooms, new exterior fencing, a beautiful new gift shop as part of upgrades to baseball’s only ballpark to have been used in two states. If you go to a game in Burlington you will note the unique charm of the ballpark and the fans that spend their summers there. The stadium sits above the dugouts, giving fans the opportunity to get a great view of the pitches as they come across the plate and a clear view of the entire field from anywhere in the stadium. Picnic areas that run along both left and right field foul lines give kids a place to run around and play with Royals’ Mascot “Bingo”, or enjoy a beer including local craft selections from Red Oak Brewing.

#BaseballBelongsInBurlington


The Burlington Royals, their fans, and the city of Burlington have been very outspoken against MLB’s proposed new PBA and understandably so. Each year this short-season team contributes over $1 million dollars to the local economy, and the city has invested $3.2 million dollars into improving the stadium over the past decade. The pricing on tickets, food, and drinks are incredibly reasonable and help give hard working families in this community an affordable option for an evening out.

Fun Facts:

  • Burlington Athletic Stadium is one of only two ballparks from the 1988 hit film Bull Durham that are currently used by Minor League Baseball (McCormick Field in Asheville, NC is the other)
  • Burlington Athletic Stadium is the only ballpark currently in use to have been used in two states (VA and NC)
  • Die-hard baseball fans can take advantage of catching morning games at other ballparks in the region (Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Durham, and Zebulon) and an evening game in Burlington during the season.
  • Fun feature: ballpark urinals are designed to look like a team locker room (see below)
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Famous MLB Alumni:

  • Salvador Perez (2007)
  • Wil Myers (2009)
  • Brian Giles (1989)
  • Jim Thome (1990)
  • Manny Ramirez (1991)
  • Bartolo Colon (1994)
  • CC Sabathia (1998)
  • Chris Archer (2006)
  • Luis Tiant (1963)
  • And many more
Featured

F.A.Q.: MLB’s Plans to Eliminate 42 Minor League Teams

Modern Woodmen Ballpark, in Davenport, IA. One of the most scenic parks in America

A brief rundown of what’s happened, who are involved, reasons, and how to help

F.A.Q.:

What’s going on?

Despite what is commonly and understandably thought, Major League and Minor League Baseball are two separate entities that partner through a contract called the Professional Baseball Agreement. As part of a new deal to extend their relationship with Minor League Baseball, Major League Baseball owners and the Commissioner’s Office has called for the elimination of 42 Minor League Teams as part of the new PBA that will to go in effect during the 2021 season.

Is my team on this list?

Statistically speaking, there is a 1 in 4 chance of your team being on this list. This decision mostly impacts the low minors (Rookie and Short-Season designation) but also the Midwest, South Atlantic, Carolina, California, Florida, Southern, and Eastern Leagues. The teams reported to be on MLB’s chopping block can be found in my PBA story here.

How can this happen?

It might surprise you, but Major League (MLB) and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) have a very long and complicated history that goes back to the late 19th century. There have been periods of rockiness, but for the past 30 years the two leagues have enjoyed a partnership that has involved very little conflict. Despite the three decades of good relations where MiLB has financially boomed, MLB has traditionally enjoyed a position of power in these relations and is using it to push for the elimination of 42 MiLB teams in 20 states. MLB has also proposed t the MLB draft from 40 to 25 rounds to eliminate players. This means a 37.5% reduction in the draft, several hundred lost fulltime MiLB staff positions, thousands, if not tens of thousands of lost seasonal jobs, and of course the loss of professional baseball in 42 communities.

When will this happen?

The current Professional Baseball Agreement, or the agreement that links Major League and Minor League Baseball into a formal partnership will end on September 30, 2020. This means 42 teams could play their last games this September.

What will happen to those teams? The “Dream League” (aka the “In-Your-Dreams-League)”

Are employees of teams and communities out of luck? MLB has talked about a “Dream League” or independent league that gets backing from MLB taking the place of these 42 teams. Currently, there is no explanation from MLB on how the Dream League will operate, nor is there any infrastructure in place to support such an endeavor. The Dream League will also tack on an additional $500,000 (at minimum) that Minor/Dream League teams would need to pay in workers-compensation insurance plus wages. For some communities this could mean ticket prices going up across the board to cover this expense that has been placed on MiLB teams.

How does this benefit MLB?

MLB pays MiLB players their salary. For players in Rookie and Short-Season-A this means $1,100 a month before taxes and clubhouse dues. Players in AAA with enough service-time in the Minors can earn as much as $2,700 a month before taxes and clubhouse dues. They are only paid for the MiLB season, so April-Labor Day weekend for full-season folks. By reducing the Number of Minor League teams MLB can reduce part of this this expense. What do I mean by part? MiLB teams contribute a part of their season ticket sales to pay an annual ticket tax to MLB to supplement the cost of MiLB salaries. This year MiLB paid a reported $20 million, or nearly $5,000 per player on their roster, in ticket taxes. So how much money will MLB lose as a result of cutting 42 teams and reducing the ticket tax? Based on current MiLB player pay rates, MLB’s losses will negligible with the possibility of them ending up ahead.

Something to note: in the background of all this is MLB’s recent intervention into politics to try to keep MiLB salaries down and their court room battle to keep MiLB players for earning money for things like playing in playoff baseball. This is also going on while MLB is fighting lawsuits from Minor League Baseball and pumping money into the campaigns of elected officials as they try to limit MiLB players pay through the “Save America’s Pastime Act.” As far as other expenses, Minor League teams foot the bills for hotel, travel, and keeping ballparks up to grade with MLB standards for MiLB affiliates, meaning MLB doesn’t contribute to these expenses.  

Okay, so what does this mean for my community’s team?

Maybe more than you think. MiLB regularly contributes money to local causes and gets involved in community events. The Minors regularly pour multiple millions into their communities, participate in community service projects, and provide season-long entertainment. In a recent bi-partisan letter of opposition to the reduction of the Minors, 105 members of Congress describe MiLB as a public good and asset to the communities it serves. Losing our teams means not only losing this, but also losing all the joy, excitement, and entertainment that MiLB provides.

Who’s trying to eliminate these 42 teams?

This was a decision unanimously passed by all 30 Major League Baseball owners/ownership groups and supported by Commissioner Rob Manfred and Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem.

How do I get involved?

  • Tell your Mayor!:  There is an official Mayors’ Task Force to Save Minor League Baseball.  Contact your Mayor, City Manager, or City Council and let them know about the effort being taken to save MiLB. Even if you don’t have a Minor League team in your community, or your Minor League Team is safe, I urge you to contact your city officials and add them to the list.
  • Tell your Representative in Congress!: 105 members of Congress signed off on an official letter of complaint to MLB. This is a bipartisan effort to put political pressure on MLB. If your local Representative is on the list, GREAT! If not, get them there! Find out how to contact your Congressperson here.
  • Get involved with people in your area!: Contact me (savemymilb@google.com or on twitter @savemilb) and if I know of people in your area I would love to connect you with them. Contact your local team and see if they can connect you with other fans.
  • Support the cause on Social Media!: As baseball fans and consumers we are ultimately MLB’s market. Follow us, share our content, contact @RobManfred and let him know where you stand. Use the hashtags #SaveMiLB and #SaveMinorLeagueBaseball when sharing news, photos from the park, or when you want to let us know what Minor League Baseball means to you.

Even if your team isn’t on the list, or you love Minor League Baseball and you aren’t near it at the moment please raise your voice against this decision. Follow and share content that speaks to this matter (I will be using the @milb_my account to try to keep everyone up-to-date with the latest news). Speak out to Commissioner Manfred, Deputy Commissioner Halem, your favorite MLB team, or your elected officials.  

Featured

Welcome to the page!

A Fan Campaign to Save Minor League Baseball

“We do not believe it is productive to engage in further public debate with [MiLB] over a successor Professional Baseball Agreement.”

— Rob Manfred, Commissioner of Major League Baseball

Welcome and thank you for dropping by!
In October 2019, news broke that Major League Baseball is planning to eliminate 42 Minor League teams at the end of the 2020. I have spent the past 27 years in Minor League Baseball – as a fan, as an intern, as a researcher, and most often now as I play scout – and when the news hit I was stunned. The relationship between Major League and Minor League Baseball has changed a lot over the years, but to call for entire Minor Leagues to be reduced by 25 percent, killing three leagues (the Appalachian, Pioneer, and New York-Penn Leagues), and actively trying to take professional baseball out of communities marks a radical change in the relationship between the Majors and Minors.

Although my current local teams are safe, my hometown Vermont LakeMonsters are just one of many teams across 20 states that will be eliminated unless this can be stopped. This page is dedicated to spreading information, connecting individuals, and trying to raise a public campaign to save Minor League Baseball in these communities by telling MLB ownership, Commissioner Rob Manfred, and Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem that we will not stand for this decision.

Over the next several weeks heading into the regular season I plan on updating this blog with background information on the proposal, analysis of MLB’s case, and highlighting fan and team efforts to save Minor League Baseball in their communities. In the meanwhile and throughout the season, I am actively trying to connect with teams and fans across the country to see how we can combine efforts, organize local groups, and campaign to help save these teams. If you are interested in connecting with other fans, want to reach out, ask questions, or anything else please do not hesitate to contact me either by email at SaveMyMilb@gmail.com and @milb_my on Twitter.

Thanks everyone and let’s work together to #SaveMiLB.

Yours in Baseball,

Mike Maciejewski

Oakland A’s furlough MiLBers

On May 26, news broke that the Oakland Athletics will no longer be paying their Minor League players during the pandemic. Players across Minor League Baseball were paid $400 a week since March. Players were contacted via email to let them know that their weekly pay would not be continued past June 1st, giving players less than a week’s notice that their pay was discontinue. The move was part of a larger furlough by the A’s who also furloughed scouts, team personnel, and staff.

This is the first instance of a MLB team furloughing their Minor League players.

How will this impact the players?: players are in the most precocious situations. They remain under contract with a team but will not be paid until regular season baseball resumes (this could be as late April 2021). If an Oakland A’s Minor Leaguer wants to earn a check, they will need to do it away from professional baseball.

With June right around the corner it seems less and less likely that Minor League Baseball as we know it, will return to normal in 2020. It seems most likely that *if* baseball resumes in 2020, it will most likely be at a Spring Training complex in Florida or Arizona. If not, these guys will be without work for almost a year. For a lot of people, this is simply not an option and they will be forced to walk away from the game.

How will this impact Minor Leagues? It all depends. If MLB and the MLBPA agree to terms and Spring Training resumes in the near future, it is not entirely unconceivable that Minor League Baseball plays in some sort of fashion this year. But if I am being frank, I suspect that if Minor League Baseball gets played it will be out of Spring Training facility backfields.

What does this mean re: contraction?:
Short-term: Beloit and Vermont are the teams that have appeared most regularly on the still fluid “list” of teams rumored to be contracted. Will this impact either affiliate? Depends. If baseball returns in 2020, it is more likely that we will see ballgames in Wisconsin before we see action in Vermont (full-season v. short-season).  The most important short-term impact could be the very real opportunity these two affiliates could have to connect with fans one last time.

Long-term: No matter what, if you live in Vermont (especially the Champlain Valley), or in and around Beloit, Wisconsin, the long-term concern hinges on multiple things.

  • For Beloit it seems as though its future hinges on whether the city will pass a bill to build a new ballpark.
  • For Vermont, this all hinges on whether the New York-Penn League stays in existence in its current form or in some re-designed rookie-league.

If neither of those things happen than the future is grim for both franchises. The furlough of Minor League players will likely force many young players to ask whether they can afford to keep “chasing the dream” as they try to make their way through the rigors, roster games, and politics of making ones’ way up through the Minor Leagues. You are less likely to see top round picks in this camp, but players who were college seniors and late round picks are much more likely to fill an immediate need created by this decision. Right off the bat (excuse the pun), that will include a large portion of players who make up short-season Minor League team rosters, including Vermont.

The total cost of paying the farm system through the rest of the season is approximately just over a million dollars (not counting Minor League free agents signed to the team or players on the 40-man roster). This is essentially the cost of 2 MLB league minimum salaries ($563,500).

3/26/2020: Season notes:

3/26/2020 Updates:

Well baseball fans, we would normally be two weeks away from the start of the Minor League Season, but the Coronavirus pandemic looks to keep us from enjoying time at the ballpark for the foreseeable future.  Let’s look at what we know about the 2020 season, how it relates to the contraction of the Minors, and what we can do in the meantime.

The 2020 Minor League Season: Start date TBD: It seems unlikely that the MLB season will start before June 1st, it also seems unlikely that we will see Minor League Baseball much before that date. There is a lot of speculation about when the season will start.

What will a shortened-MiLB schedule look like? While nothing official has made it ways from either MLB or MiLB about what the 2020 season will look like, there are some interesting theories being floated around. Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper has suggested three ways to maximize the amount of games played during the shortened season including the possibility of eliminating playoffs and using those two weeks to play regularly scheduled games. While the lack of a Championship Series would be disappointing to fans, several leagues in recent years had to cancel some or even the entire postseason in response to hurricanes and other weather-related events.

Will MLB delay the draft, and what impact will this have on Short-Season and Rookie Leagues?: Given that NCAA Baseball and many high schools across the country are not playing due to Coronavirus the question of scouting and drafting talent in 2020 has been up in the air. For short-season and rookie-level teams this is a major concern as many players selected in the draft will find a place on these rosters. While there are free agents, guys in complex leagues, and existing players on the farm who might be slated to start their seasons with these teams, the talent will not be the same.

How will this impact the PBA and the fate of the 42 Minor League teams slated for contraction?:

I am concerned about the teams facing contraction for several reasons, but most of which are financial.

  • Minor League Baseball, especially at the low minors, often operates on razor-thin margins. Like many small businesses during this time, there are a lot of questions about if teams will be able to weather this storm. In addition to any lost game day revenue from tickets, concessions, and other related sales, we should consider the following issues that impact teams:

    • Sunk costs: by this point in the winter many clubs have already placed orders for game day operation supplies (uniforms, balls, bats, ground crew supplies, ect), as well as paper products for items like pocket schedules (which may no longer be valid), ticket stock, print advertising, etc. All of this has tied up cash reserves, and some of these items might like the schedules might no longer have any use value.

    • Potential financial losses in season: Many of the sponsorship deals with local businesses are paid over the course of the season and built on a fixed number of home games. The more games lost to Coronavirus means that the sponsorship deal will likely be prorated to match the number of games the team expects to play.

    • Being able to advocate for themselves: Several clubs have already been very outspoken about the potential contraction. In conversations I’ve had with team executives I know that several clubs planned a season long campaign to save their team as part of their home games. Obviously, this disrupts these campaigns and impacts its ability to get its message out to fans at games.   

What will we be doing at SaveMiLB.org?

While we postponed the fan video campaign, my friend James Christopher at Let’s Get Two Podcast came up with a great idea that I hope you all can get behind. Opening Day originally scheduled to take place two weeks from today (April 9) I am asking everyone to take a photo of themselves in their favorite Minor League gear and tell us what you love about your team and post it to social media with the #SaveMiLB. I would also encourage everyone to use the #SaveMinorLeagueBaseball #TheFightFor42, as well as any other hashtags you know of being used by Minor League teams speaking out against contraction (#KeepTheVibeAlive #SaveMyTeam #SaveTheSpikes). If you know of any other hashtagged slogans teams are using please email me at savemymilb@gmail.com and I will be sure to update them.

In addition to this I will be writing more pieces about contraction on this site until more word comes out about MiLB in 2020. Once the baseball landscape comes back into shape, we will have plenty of activities and fun, baseball related ways to keep the fight for these 42 teams alive.

In the meantime, please feel free to shoot me a message at the above email or on social media if you want to talk about Minor League Baseball and this contraction nonsense.

Yours in Baseball,

Mike

3/20/2020 Update and Corona Response

What’s up baseball fans,

It’s time to talk about Coronavirus and the impact it will have on this campaign, website, and plan going forward for 2020.

We’re not going anywhere, but we do have to be fluid to respond to the changes in the Minor League Season.

What’s happening: As of right now, MLB and MiLB operations have shut down in response to Coronavirus. It seems unlikely that baseball will start before June 1, and as much as it sucks for fans, it’s much worse for the players, MiLB front office staff, operations personnel, gameday employees, and all other people who make an income working at a ballpark.  

Does this help Minor League Baseball and the #SaveMiLB Campaign? I think it hurts Minor League Baseball. in addition to stopping baseball, Coronavirus has stopped much in the way of development with the PBA and the future state of the Minor Leagues. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop the countdown to the September 30, 2020 PBA expiration date. This campaign will continue the fight to save these 42 teams, but the strategies going forward are going to more fluid in order to best accommodate the uncertainty of when the season will start.

Going forward I will be keeping you updated on information that relates to the contraction of the Minors, any information related to the start of the 2020 season, and try to get some sort of registry with news on this information made available. As things progress I will be posting updates on the SaveMiLB.org social media accounts.

I have had some great outreach and promise you that we will be resuming the fan video campaign so that it coincides with the start of the season. In the meanwhile, if you want to make one please do! If you need some inspiration check out what the Missoula Paddleheads have going for them as part of their #SaveMyTeam campaign.

Stay safe everyone,

Mike

Minor League Moneyball: The Impact of MiLB on Local Economies

L.P. Frans Stadium, Hickory N.C. – HickoryNC.gov

“You’ll have to forgive me,” said the woman at the register
“We just got here, and I am trying to remember where everything is.”
I smile and assure her it is no problem. She smiles back as she moves her finger to her chest and points to the logo for a local youth sports club on her shirt. “We’re working concessions to raise money for our kid’s team” she says before turning to the woman next to her to tell her my order. Each spring and into the summer, community organizations volunteer their time working the concession stands at L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory, North Carolina. In exchange for a couple of hours each week organizations from across the community can enjoy a slice of the Crawdad’s concessions plus whatever money they raise in tips. For programs like youth football leagues, dance programs, Boys and Girls Scouts, and Church groups the money can cover an upcoming trip, new equipment, or provide the revenue needed to help administer programs that give back to the community. “I recall cutting checks for $15 to $20 grand at the end of the season for organizations [that participate in this program]” says Rocky Mountain Vibes President and General Manager Chris Phillips. “If we go, so do all these opportunities.”

Each summer in towns across the United States, Minor League teams partner with local community groups and charitable organizations to raise funds through concessions partnerships, 50-50 raffles, promotional jersey sales, as well as partnering with national organizations like the American Cancer Society, the ALS Association, and the BairFind Foundation to locate and rescue missing and exploited children. In 2018, Minor League Baseball donated a total of $19.5 million dollars in cash to local charities as well as $25.5 million dollars as in-kind gifts. This figure includes a total of $6.7 million dollars donated back to the communities by the 42 teams slated to be eliminated by Major League Baseball as part of the new PBA to go in effect prior to the start of the 2021 season. It’s also hard to ignore the less tangible impact that these teams have on their communities. Programs like the Great Falls Voyagers’ “9 Innings of Reading” reading program reached 2,500 students in a community of less than 60,000, while a similar program operated by the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies reached 65,000 students in 153 schools during the Spring of 2017, and an additional 25,000 students in library and YMCA programs that summer.

Looking beyond charitable work, the impact that this will have on local economies will be immediately felt if Major League Baseball’s attempt to reduce and restructure the Minor Leagues in its current form takes place. Teams such as the Norwich Sea Unicorns employ 10 full-time staff members and several dozen seasonal employees, while its short-season counterpart in the Pioneer League, the Rocky Mountain Vibes, employ 15 full-time staff members and an estimated 140 seasonal-employees who run promotions, serve as ushers, as well as manage concessions and work the gift shop. This move to cut the 42 teams will cost the Sports and Leisure Management field an estimated 500 full-time positions and result in the loss of thousands of seasonal jobs. It will also mean the loss of local contracts for food and drink vendors, local purchasing agents, printers, and other groups that regularly pump millions of dollars per team back into the local economy.  

Finally, there are the sunk costs that communities have poured into facilities to help keep Minor League facilities up to spec based on Major League Baseball’s requirements. Prior to the 2019 season the community of Elizabethton, Tennessee allocated $1.5 million dollars in funds to stadium upgrades to ensure that the ballpark met the growing requirements placed on Minor League clubs by Major League Baseball. In a community of under 15,000 where nearly 1 in 5 people live below the poverty line the investment of $1.5 million dollars reflects both the importance that this team has to the community and the function the team plays in its local economy. The University of Vermont leased Centennial Field to the Vermont Lake Monsters for $1 a year for 20 years in order to allow the team to allocate funds for renovations. Given the current value of the land in the region and UVM’s recent history of growing their campus, the decision to rent the ballpark to the Lake Monsters at the cost of a McDonald’s soda is indicative of the importance the team plays to the people of the Champlain Valley.

Major League Baseball’s decision to allow communities such as Elizabethton, T.N. ($1.5m in 2019), Burlington, N.C. ($1.3m in 2019, $3.5m since 2014), and many other communities across the country like Billings, M.T. (new ballpark within the last 20 years) and State College, P.A. (the first LEED-certified ballpark in the country that isn’t yet 15 years old) to invest millions of dollars into facilities that could be gone within the next 12 months reflects a bad faith effort by Major League Baseball (a league that generated a record $10.7B in profits in 2019) to make reasonable deals with the communities that support their organizations.

As I am writing this piece, I think about the woman in Hickory, the family working together in the concessions stands in Princeton, W.V., my friends who have spent their adult lives keeping baseball alive in communities across the Northeast, and the millions of people who rely on these teams to provide affordable family fun each and every summer. I also think about the college students studying sports management who are about to enter a job market that is about to be reduced by hundreds of full-time positions, and will now have to compete in a shrinking field against competition with years of experience who will be scrambling to find a job in their industry. The decision by Major League Baseball to reduce these 42 teams will be felt wide-and-far across the country and will likely have a trickle-down impact that will hurt the organizations and businesses that partner with these 42 clubs each year. It especially pains me to see the look of disappointment on the faces of people who look forward to the start of each season, the promise of a new team, and a shot at a league title when a multi-billion-dollar a year industry decides to cut ties with their community.

What we can do:

  • Participate in our Opening Week Campaign to tell Major League Baseball owners, Commissioner Rob Manfred, Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem, and the sports world that we demand to keep Minor League Baseball alive in our communities.
  • Participate in our future campaigns and use the hashtags #SaveMinorLeagueBaseball and #SaveMiLB
  • Tell your Mayors/City Councils, Members of Congress, and Senators to support Minor League Teams and participate in programs such as the Mayor’s Task Force to Save Minor League Baseball and the Congressional Task Force to Save Minor League Baseball. It’s a cause that has been supported by both major parties as well as independents.

“The Truth is in the Cards”

Top stars from the 42 Minor League Baseball Teams on the Chopping Block

I was recently inspired by @BaseballTravelr‘s post of a picture of the 2012 Appalachian League Top Prospect Baseball card set with the post:

Going through some of the @AppyLeague Top Prospect sets I picked up this week and throwing the Bullshit Flag on MLB’s assertion that very few players from the lower leagues make it to the show. 2012 alone Daniel Norris, Roberto Osuna, Blake Snell, Max Kapler, S Matz, & C Kelly

The post got me thinking about the teams that are currently named on the contraction list and some of the talent these teams have produced over the years. I thought it would be fun to post cards of a current or former MLB player that played for these teams. Please enjoy!


Auburn DoubleDays
New York-Penn League


Batavia Muckdogs
New York-Penn League

Beloit Snappers
Midwest League

Billings Mustangs
Pioneer League

Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Previously Mets)
Eastern League

Bristol Pirates
Appalachian League

Burlington Royals (previously: Indians)
Appalachian League

Burlington Bees (formerly Expos)
Midwest League


Chattanooga Lookouts
Southern League


Clinton Lumberkings
Midwest League


Danville Braves
Appalachian League


Daytona Tortugas (previously Cubs)
Florida State League


Elizabethton Twins
Appalachian League


Erie SeaWolves
Eastern League


Florida Fire Frogs
Florida State League

Frederick Keys
Carolina League


Grand Junction Rockies
Pioneer League


Great Falls Voyagers
Pioneer League


Greeneville Reds (then Astros)
Appalachian League


Hagerstown Suns
South Atlantic League

Idaho Falls Chuckars
Pioneer League


Jackson Generals
Southern League


Johnson City Cardinals
Appalachian League

Kingsport Mets
Appalachian League


Lexington Legends
South Atlantic League


Lowell Spinners
New York-Penn League

Mahoning Valley Scrappers
New York-Penn League

Missoula Paddleheads (formerly Ospreys)
Pioneer League


Norwich Sea Unicorns (previously Tigers, CT Defenders)
New York-Penn League

Lancaster Jethawks
California League

Ogdan Raptors
Pioneer League

Orem Owlz
Pioneer League


Quad Cities River Bandits
Midwest League

Rocky Mountain Vibes (formerly Colorado Springs Sky Sox)
Pioneer League


State College Spikes
New York-Penn League


Staten Island Yankees
New York-Penn League


Salem-Keizer Volanoes
Northwest League


Tri-City Dust Devils
Northwest League


Vermont Lake Monsters
New York-Penn League

West Virginia Power
South Atlantic League


Williamsport Crosscutters (formerly Cubs)
New York-Penn League

SaveMiLB Spotlight: Burlington Bees

Burlington Bees
Affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Midwest League (Low-A)
Burlington, Iowa

Burlington, Iowa’s Community Field (Wikipedia)

When one thinks of Iowa and Baseball, they can’t help but think of the 1989 hit film Field of Dreams. Based on W.P. Kinsella’s 1982 book Shoeless Joe, the movie’s classic line “If you build it, they will come” hits home in Southeastern Iowa, where the Burlington Bees of the Midwest League have been a staple in the community for 65 consecutive seasons. Unlike every other Minor League team that has to be unofficially adopted by their community, the Burlington Bees are officially a part of the city. Owned by the Burlington Baseball Association and operating as a non-profit, the team and ballpark are maintained by the 503C(3) organization “Friends of Community Field,” making it baseball’s only community owned team.   

If you go to Community Field, or “the Hive” as it is referred to by locals, you will be enjoying a unique chance to see an organization led by a completely volunteer Board of Directors, and contribute to local efforts to pump money back into the cozy confines of this park that seats 3,200 fans. This is an example of small town baseball at some of its finest, where fans know each other by name and local super-fan “Dancing Bobby” pumps the crowd up with his dance moves. I have been fortunate enough to attend games at over 50 Minor League stadiums, and Burlington provides a unique, hometown feel where a fellow fan might roll up to you and talk about how this year’s team compares to previous seasons and brag about all the Major League talent that has rolled through in recent seasons including Wil Myers, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer, as well as Vida Blue, Paul Molitor, Billy Williams, and Larry Walker.

So, let’s talk about Burlington, Iowa: when the bleachers burned down in June 1971, the team did not miss a game for the next two seasons while volunteers from the community rebuilt the bleachers. In 1999 and 2005, the team upgraded the scoreboard, external signage, the PA system, and clubhouses to make the organization more marketable and provide better facilities for its players. In the meanwhile, local fans have enjoyed the recent talents of prospects including five-tool talent Jo Adell, whose torrid campaign for Burlington earned him a jump to the California League way ahead of most talent prognosticators expectations.  

SaveMiLB Spotlight: Vermont Lake Monsters

Vermont Lake Monsters
New York-Penn League (Short-Season A-ball)
Centennial Field
Burlington, Vermont

While Fenway Park claims to be the oldest professional ballpark still in use, real baseball fans know that some 215 miles North of Boston is the real oldest ballpark still used in Pro Ball. Burlington, Vermont is home to Centennial Field and the Vermont Lake Monsters, short-season low-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. The field opened in 1906, with renovations in 1922, again in 1994-95, and more recently in 2010s, this ballpark is a reminder of a bygone era in baseball’s past while showcasing the future of the game.

The Lake Monsters have been under continuous operation since 1994, when Ray Pecor Jr. bought Montreal’s Jamestown (N.Y.) affiliate and moved the organization to the Champlain Valley. Despite having a total state population (626,000) approximately the same to Louisville, Kentucky (620,000) the Lake Monsters have packed 3,000 fans a night into the cozy confines of Centennial Field since the turnstiles re-opened in 1994. The ballpark has a long history of entertaining fans, both as the former home of the University of Vermont Catamounts (UVM ended its baseball and softball programs in 2009), the Vermont Reds (AA- Eastern League) from 1984 to 1987, winning league titles in 3 of the 4 seasons. In 1988, the team switched affiliations and became the Vermont Mariners (Eastern League) for the next two seasons before departing to Canton, Ohio. Since professional baseball returned in 1994 it has thrived, thanks largely in part to its mascot Champ, based on Lake Champlain’s legendary Lake Monster of the same name.   

Very much in tune with the local spirit of community and the love of all things fun, the Lake Monsters developed a strong partnership with Vermont’s own Ben & Jerry’s every year for its “Summer of Love” Night. The 1960s-themed evening celebrates Burlington’s “crunchy vibe” with ice cream from two of Vermont’s favorite adopted sons. Keeping in the tradition with celebrating Vermont heritage, in 2018 the Lake Monsters announced that for a series against the Staten Island Yankees the affiliate would become the Vermont Maple Kings to celebrate the time-honored Vermont tradition of sugaring.

In 2019, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders publicly condemned Major League Baseball’s position to reduce the Minors, citing the Lake Monsters in his statement. Opposition to the PBA proves to be one of the few issues that draws bipartisan support in Washington.

Fun Facts:

  • On multiple occasions the short-season Vermont Expos drew more fans to their games than their parent club in Montreal.
  • The Lake Monsters currently lease Centennial Field from the University of Vermont at the rate of $1 per year for 20 years, making it the best rental agreement in all of professional baseball.  
  • The affiliate was the last team in professional baseball to use the name “Expos” before switching over to the Lake Monsters in 2006.

MLB Alumni:

  • Barry Larkin (Vermont Reds)
  • Chris Sabo (Vermont Reds)
  • Rob Dibble (Vermont Reds)
  • Ken Griffey Jr. (Vermont Mariners)
  • Omar Vizquel (Vermont Mariners)
  • Orlando Cabrera (Vermont Expos)
  • Michael Barrett (Vermont Expos)
  • Jamey Carroll (Vermont Expos)
  • Jason Bay (Vermont Expos)
  • Ian Desmond (Vermont Expos)
  • Milton Bradley (Vermont Expos)
  • Jordan Zimmermann (Vermont Lake Monsters)
  • Brad Peacock ((Vermont Lake Monsters)
  • Derek Norris ((Vermont Lake Monsters)
  • Steven Souza Jr. ((Vermont Lake Monsters)
  • Addison Russell ((Vermont Lake Monsters)
  • Sean Murphy ((Vermont Lake Monsters)
  • And many more

2-18-2020 update: IA, MA, TN, MT, and NC

Hi everyone,

We have a couple quick hits to discuss as full-squad MLB workouts begin during Spring Training. While I am thrilled to have baseball around the corner, it also means that we as fans need to step up our efforts to keep all 162 Minor League teams in operation. Some recent news:
NBC’s The Today Show featured a piece on Minor League Baseball featuring the fans of the Lowell Spinners and their owner David Heller. Mr. Heller owns 4 teams, 3 of which are on MLB’s Chopping Block. He’s not the only businessman looking to have his teams taken away by MLB. Boyd Sports Group owned by Randy and Jenny Boyd also owns 4 Minor League affiliates in Tennessee and is threatened with losing 3 of his affiliates as part of MLB’s efforts to reduce the Minor Leagues. I have been fortunate enough to attend games at stadiums operated by both of these groups and can speak highly about the fan engagement and experience at these ballparks.

-Big shout out to the Burlington (N.C.) Royals of the Appalachian League whose social media campaign to save their team has incorporated several members of local government into their efforts to save the team. As it stands, only one member of the Appy League (Pulaski Yankees) is safe from reduction. Many people from Burlington have been vocal against MLB’s proposed reduction of the Minors, they are a great example of a community coming together to support a team.
Also, some big news! I will be expanding this campaign to YouTube (Save MiLB) that will soon be uploading videos on topics related to all things relating to saving Minor League Baseball. Much more to come soon relating to that!

As always, if you want to get involved or have questions about this topic please feel free reach out to me.

Yours in Baseball,

Mike
savemymilb@gmail.com