Major League Baseball taking over Minor League Baseball Operations and shrinking affiliations to 120 teams from 160 will risk a number of obviously negative impacts across communities that will lose access to nearby professional baseball. I remain bummed and concerned about those risks in the long term.
The flip side of the changes, though, is that some MLB/MiLB team relationships will be strengthened by the new operations, and the confidence in the longevity. In theory, you could see considerably less movement among affiliations in the coming years, which, in turn, could create better relationships between the cities where affiliates still exist. That is undoubtedly a good thing for those communities.
For example, South Bend and the South Bend Cubs just announced an extension of their stadium agreement, which will keep the South Bend Cubs in place at least through 2041(!). From the release:
“This is a win for the team and for the city,” said Aaron Perri, Executive Director, City of South Bend Venues, Parks & Arts. “The partnership between the ballclub and the city will continue to be phenomenal for another twenty years.”
The new agreement is particularly noteworthy because Major League Baseball (MLB) has extended invitations to 120 of the current 160 affiliated clubs to continue their relationship with Major League Teams. What is even more impressive is South Bend has been invited to move up to High-A status – which means more talented players and a higher caliber of play on the field.
“Four Winds Field, which was built 33 years ago, is still one of the best in the country for minor league baseball,” added Andrew Berlin, Chairman and Owner of the South Bend Cubs. “The city and the team have both worked hard to keep it that way over the years. It is one of the principal reasons we will continue our wonderful relationship with the Chicago Cubs.”
“A recent study using AECOM Research & Development’s formulas, shows that professional baseball contributes roughly $25 million a year in direct and induced economic impact to the region,” added Perri. “The team is both a draw to the region and a valuable financial asset.”
The Cubs’ minor league system for 2021 will include its rookie league teams in Arizona, its team in the Dominican Summer League, Low-A in Myrtle Beach, High-A in South Bend, AA in Tennessee, and AAA in Iowa.