CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday asking the Government Accountability Office to study the financial impact of minor league baseball teams in their respective communities.
House Resolution 6020 stems from a Major League Baseball proposal that would eliminate 42 teams, including three in West Virginia.
The chamber’s Save Minor League Baseball Task Force introduced the measure on Jan. 28; Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., is one of the task force’s co-chairs.
“Minor league baseball is a point of pride in these cities and towns, and brings jobs and economic development, and provides affordable family-friendly entertainment and brings people together for an afternoon at the ballpark,” McKinley said on the House floor. “And hopefully, creating the next generation of baseball fans.”
Major League Baseball is seeking a new deal with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues due to the costs of maintaining a minor league team and its players. Under Major League Baseball’s proposal, 13 teams would close and 29 clubs would lose their affiliation.
The West Virginia Power in Charleston, the Bluefield Blue Jays and the Princeton Rays are among the teams that would be affected by the proposal.
“Why is Congress involved?” McKinley said. “You have to understand, for the most part, Major League Baseball controls the destiny of minor leagues, and they should not be allowed to bully these small communities into submission. Our goal is to level the playing field for these small towns, and ensure that they have a voice on this matter.”
If the resolution becomes law, the GAO would be responsible for studying the social and economic impact of minor league baseball.
Reps. Lori Trahan, D-Mass.; Max Rose, D-N.Y.; and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho; serve alongside McKinley as leaders of the baseball task force.
“These communities deserve better than to be forgotten. They deserve better than to be considered merely in the context of a balance sheet,” Trahan said on the House floor. “These communities have supported their teams through thick and thin, and they produce the talent that we all see on the baseball diamond at the major league level.”
Two of the West Virginia teams — the Bluefield Blue Jays and the Princeton Rays — are located in the 3rd Congressional District, which Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., represents.
“MLB says their goal is to modernize the minor league system, but affected communities say the plan is misguided,” Miller said Tuesday.
Miller, who is co-sponsoring the measure, mentioned minor league baseball teams have positive economic and societal impacts that should be maintained.
Major League Baseball said it is willing to participate in a GAO study, noting “the many problems in Minor League Baseball that are impeding the development of players.”
“A thorough study would show that the status quo is not just outdated but failing both players and communities across the country that are at risk of being left behind by minor league owners who can move their team and leave town at any moment,” the league said.
“MLB is confident that we can simultaneously keep baseball in the communities in which it is currently being played and modernize our player development system so that it fits the 21st century, improves playing conditions and increases opportunities for players. We look forward to working with Congress and the GAO, but the most constructive role they can play at this time is to encourage Minor League Baseball to continue working with MLB to address the real issues impacting minor league players and communities.”
A resolution before the Senate asks Major League Baseball to continue its support of minor league clubs and reconsider the proposal. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., are among the resolution’s co-sponsors.