CHARLESTON — A bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to take a close look at the importance of Minor League Baseball to communities.
H.R. 6020, co-sponsored by Rep. Carol Miller, R-3rd District, orders an evaluation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the “social, economic, and historic contributions that Minor League Baseball has made to American life and culture.”
This is the first action taken by Congress to address the problem facing Bluefield, Princeton and other communities impacted by an announced plan by Major League Baseball to eliminate 42 minor league teams after the 2020 season.
Both the Bluefield Blue Rays and Princeton Rays would be gone as well as almost all teams in the Appalachian League.
“The Bluefield Blue Jays and Princeton Rays have a tremendous impact on the region,” Miller said Tuesday. “They strengthen the economy and give everyone in Southern West Virginia a team to rally around,.”
Miller said Minor League Baseball teams are the “pride and joy of America’s small towns and we must preserve them.”
“I’ve spoken on the House Floor, in committee, and co-sponsored H.R. 6020, which urges the government to research the economic, social, and historical impacts that minor league teams have on our communities,” she said.
Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va. 9th District, also issued a statement.
“Minor League Baseball brings America’s pastime out of big cities to the country’s smaller towns and rural areas,” he said. “It is an entertaining, family-friendly, and affordable activity that encourages a sense of community and supports local economies. I supported H.R. 6020 so Major League Baseball would have further evidence that supporting Minor League Baseball is a matter of great importance to Americans across the country.”
Griffith is a member of the Congressional Save Minor League Baseball Task Force and signed a letter to Major League Baseball opposing its planned cuts of the 42 teams, which also include the Bristol Pirates and Danville Braves.
He has also met with representatives of local clubs, spoken with the president of Minor League Baseball, and called for oversight hearings in support of preserving minor league teams.
Rocky Malamisura, general manager of the Bluefield Blue Jays, said Tuesday baseball club officials have been instructed by Minor League Baseball not to comment on the situation at this time.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) stopped in Mercer County last month and visited Bowen Field, home to the Blue Jays.
“This kind of entertainment in sports, this enhances the quality of life in your community, gives you places to go and be with your kids,” Capito said.
The closest place where fans can see a professional baseball game is in Pittsburgh, she said. Going there for a game could cost a family a minimum of $500 for a night.
Capito said that she was concerned about possibility of West Virginia’s minor league teams being closed.
“So I’m fighting in Washington with my fellow senators and also on the House side to try to say wait a minute, this is a great enhancement to life, to the sport, to the business community here,” she said. “I want to have the major league to stop and really assess what they’re doing here and look at the impacts.”
Local leaders said that besides enhancing the quality of life, baseball contributes a lot to Mercer County’s economy. Bluefield City Manager Dane Rideout said the two teams have an annual economic impact of $25 million.
If H.R. 6020 completes the legislative process, the GAO, according to its website, “estimates the report would cost less than $500,000; any spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.”
The bill also listed the reasons to preserve Minor League Baseball teams and include:
• More than forty million fans have attended Minor League Baseball games each season for 15 consecutive years.
• Minor League Baseball provides wholesome affordable entertainment in 160 communities through-out the nation.
• In 2018, Minor League Baseball clubs donated over $45 million in cash and in-kind gifts to their local communities and completed over 15,000 volunteer hours.
• The economic stimulus and development provided by Minor League Baseball clubs extends beyond the cities and towns where it is played, to wide and diverse geographic areas comprising 80 percent of the population in the nation.
• Minor League Baseball is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion through its Copa de la Diversión, MiLB Pride, FIELD Program, and Women in Baseball Leadership initiatives.
• Minor League Baseball is the first touchpoint of the national pastime for millions of youth and the only touch-point for those located in communities far from Major League cities.
• Congress has enacted numerous statutory exemptions and immunities to preserve and sustain a system for Minor League Baseball and its relationship with Major League Baseball.
• An abandonment of 42 Minor League Baseball clubs by Major League Baseball would devastate communities, bond purchasers, and other stakeholders that rely on the economic stimulus these clubs provide.
• Minor League Baseball clubs enrich the lives of millions of Americans each year through special economic, social, cultural, and charitable contributions.
• Preservation of Minor League Baseball in 160 communities is in the public interest, as it will continue to provide affordable, family friendly entertainment to those communities.
— Contact Charles Boothe at firstname.lastname@example.org