A bipartisan effort is underway to help save minor league baseball from the ravages that the pandemic wreaked on the developmental league, threatening to make many of the small market franchises go extinct.
U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and U.S. Representatives Doris Matsui (D-Calif.-06) and David McKinley (R-W.Va.-01) introduced the Minor League Baseball Relief Act, legislation to provide emergency assistance to Minor League Baseball (MiLB) clubs who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Tennessee is home to numerous Minor League teams that have been adversely impacted due to COVID,” said Senator Blackburn. “For over 18 months, these teams have had to shut their doors to families who would have loved a night out at the ballpark. The Saving Minor League Baseball Act will ensure our local teams can keep their doors open and Volunteer State spirit alive.”
“Minor League Baseball brings communities together, providing affordable family entertainment and job opportunities across the nation. This legislation will allow minor league teams to return to normal operation and result in saving baseball in many communities. We all appreciate Senator Blackburn’s leadership in this important effort,” said Randy Boyd, owner of Boyd Sports.
“My partner, John Woods and I, along with our dozen plus local owners of the Chattanooga Lookouts, are incredibly thankful for Senator Blackburn’s efforts on behalf of Minor League Baseball. The Lookouts went nearly 620 days without being able to play a baseball game, causing us to lose more than 90% of our revenue. This has created a hole we will be digging out of for years to come. The relief effort Senator Blackburn is championing would allow us to stabilize our business, rebuild our staff and continue to serve our fans and community as the team has since 1885,” said Jason Freier, owner of the Chattanooga Lookouts.
“This bill will help keep Connecticut’s cherished minor league teams in the game,” said Senator Blumenthal. “The pandemic put America’s past time on the bench and deeply strained already cash-strapped minor league teams. Communities rely on minor league teams across the country for local jobs and small business vitality, and young baseball fans first discover their love of the game there. I’m proud to lead the effort to provide an assist to these beloved teams when they need us most.”
“In times both good and bad, our national pastime of baseball connects us to one another and to the nation we love. Yet, the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has put many of our local Minor League clubs in distress, necessitating targeted support to keep our favorite teams afloat,” said Representative Matsui. “In Sacramento, we take our sports seriously, and the Sacramento River Cats and their fans embody the passion, energy, and civic pride of our great city. The collective spirit and support for our team lifts the entire region up, and this legislation will make sure teams like these across the nation will continue to bring our communities together for years to come.”
Minor League Baseball is a point of pride to hundreds of small cities and towns across the country,” said Representative McKinley. “Like many other small businesses in other industries, minor league clubs are struggling from the economic impact of the pandemic. Many of these teams are at risk of closing their doors if they don’t have additional assistance to make it through this crisis. This bipartisan legislation will ensure Minor League Baseball as we know it can survive and keep America’s pastime alive.”
“For many working families, catching a weekend Minor League Baseball game at stadiums across the Commonwealth is an affordable and fun family outing,” said Senator Warner. “Baseball isn’t just America’s pastime, it also represents an economic lifeline for many communities. However, like many small businesses throughout the COVID-19 crisis, our Minor League Baseball teams in Virginia and across the country have struggled mightily to keep the lights on. Since there was no Minor League Baseball season in 2020 due to the pandemic, many of these teams have sustained heavy financial losses that have not been substantially mitigated by existing small business economic relief programs. I’m pleased to work with my colleagues on this bill that would allow these local treasures access to economic relief.”
“Baseball is not only America’s favorite pastime, bringing friends and families together; it’s also a critical economic engine for the Commonwealth,” said Senator Kaine. “Teams in communities across Virginia support our local economy and create jobs. The pandemic has taken a toll on this beloved sport, and I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to help MiLB teams through this economic crisis.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 MiLB season for the first time in 120 years. However, because of the timing of the start of the season, MiLB clubs had fully invested in the 2020 season, employing staff and incurring overhead in anticipation of a season and revenue that never materialized. The past year has left MiLB with catastrophic long-term losses that will devastate the small business teams and significantly harm the communities where they play and the restaurants, shops, and businesses that depend on them.
Unlike their counterparts in Major League Baseball and other major sports leagues, MiLB clubs cannot rely on TV ad revenues to supplement the loss of proceeds from ticket sales, concessions, and in-person advertising. Even with the return of fans this year, many clubs are facing immense financial hardship.