ST. GEORGE, Staten Island — For so many players in the majors, their first taste of professional baseball comes with a single-A affiliate in the minors on teams like the Brooklyn Cyclones or the Staten Island Yankees.
Big leaguers Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano got their starts on Staten Island.
“It’s a nice night out, with a great view and it’s a nice event,” said fan Rob Schneider who lives near the stadium in St. George.
Right now there are 160 minor league teams across the country, but MLB wants to get rid of a quarter of those teams.
“I really don’t see the big deal,” said Larry Henderson of St. George. “If they go away they go away.”
MLB says they want to cut teams to improve facilities, reduce travel, and increase pay for minor leaguers. Under the proposal the New York-Penn League, home to the Single-A Yankees and Cyclones would shutdown. The Mets, who own the Cyclones, would elevate Brooklyn to double-A ball and get rid of Binghamton, their current double-A affiliate.
However the Staten Island Yankees could be one of the 42 teams left out of a new deal between Major and Minor League Baseball. The team balked at the idea in a statement.
“As MLB has stated publicly, their main concerns are around facility standards, club travel, and proximity to an MLB affiliate. Your SI Yanks currently meet MLB’s facility standards, has good travel within the New York-Penn League and resides in the same city as their MLB affiliate,” a team spokesperson said.
Now lawmakers around the country are stepping up to the plate for their minor league clubs. More than 100 members of congress, including Max Rose of Staten Island, sent a letter to Major League Baseball asking them to reconsider the move.
“We want you to fully understand the impact this could have not only on the communities we represent, but also on the long-term support that Congress has always afforded our national pastime on a wide variety of legislative initiatives,” Rose said in the letter.
The impact goes far beyond baseball. People who live in the area say they don’t want to see the stadium just sitting empty because it would become an eyesore, and of dozens of full-time and hundreds of part-time jobs would be lost.
“You don’t want to see that ever,” said Schneider. “Yes I do know a few people that work here.”
But the final strike for the Staten Island Yankees could be apathy from the fans. Attendance at minor league games topped 40 million for the 15 consecutive year, but, thanks in part to nearby construction on a mall and a failed ferris wheel, The Staten Island Yankees drew just over 65,000 fans to their games last season, the lowest attendance in team history.
“I see graduations, concerts, movies, all kinds of different things going on at the stadium more than I see the baseball team play,” said Henderson.
Negotiations are ongoing but the current agreement expires at the end of the 2020 season.