By JOHN KEKIS
The Associated Press
BINGHAMTON — U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says Major League Baseball officials agreed to work to keep Binghamton’s Double-A baseball team, which is among the 42 minor league franchises targeted to lose their big league affiliation.
The New York Democrat met with MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem, Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and Eastern League president Joe McEachern to discuss the future of the Rumble Ponies, a New York affiliate.
“We came to an agreement that we want to see the Rumble Ponies stay in Binghamton as an affiliated club,” Schumer said. “We all agreed that it would take some doing. Every one of us agreed that each of us is not going to get everything we want, but that everyone would come together so that we would keep them here.”
During negotiations to replace the Professional Baseball Agreement that expires after the upcoming season, MLB has proposed cutting the minimum guaranteed affiliation agreements from 160 to 120. MLB wants improved facilities at Binghamton’s NYSEG Stadium. More than $9 million has been invested for upgrades to the stadium since 2014.
“I’m really pleased,” Schumer said. “This is the first club … that Major League Baseball has come to. That shows that they care.”
Rumble Ponies owner John Hughes said both sides committed to meet again in the next two months.
“Next time we sit down, there will be something to talk about,” Hughes said. “It’s a positive, encouraging sign, because without conversation there is no hope.”
In a statement, MLB thanked Schumer for bringing the sides together.
“The meeting was productive and adds to the ongoing dialogue between MLB, MLB clubs, Congress and local communities as we build a player development system fit for the 21st century that improves playing conditions and opportunities for players while protecting baseball in the communities where it is currently being played,” it said.
The MLB plan also calls for the elimination of 28 teams from four Class A short season and rookie advanced leagues that do not play at spring training complexes. They would be replaced by teams in a “Dream League” of unaffiliated players that would operate under MLB. Schumer said that was not part of Monday’s discussion, although upstate New York teams in Batavia and Auburn, both of the short-season New York-Penn League, would be affected.
Halem claimed last month that MLB had recently learned that Batavia, an affiliate of the Miami Marlins, had been placed into receivership and sold to an owner who intends to move the franchise. The Marlins said Monday that Batavia has not been sold and there are no plans to move the team.