posted on August 13, 2010 11:55
UPDATE (2:30pm) by Geoff Redick
"I think the travesty in all of this, the tragic portion," said Genesee County Baseball Club President Brian Paris today, "is that we may lose our team."
And he's right.
The Rochester Red Wings and Rochester Community Baseball have all but pulled support of the Batavia Muckdogs – it may be the beginning of the end for professional baseball in Batavia.
In a news release this morning, the GCBC confirms that it is now searching for potential buyers for the Batavia Muckdogs. This after indication from RCB that it is “unlikely” that they will continue operations of the team.
"It's 'unlikely' because, in the event that we get somebody to step up to the plate in the form of significant corporate sponsorships," says Paris, "then in fact, yes, the Red Wings would stay in Batavia - if there was indication that they were in a position where they could either break even, or make money."
That has not been the case so far. A "significant corporate sponsorship" is a contribution of $25,000 to $50,000 a year. And currently, Batavia has none of those.
Paris says the Muckdogs would need three or four of those big-time sponsors to efficiently operate.
"Quite frankly, that's not that big of an order to tally up," says Paris. "There are a lot of large corporations within the Western New York marketplace that could easily come in and do that."
Paris says he's particularly searching for someone not connected with this area and unaware of the situation to recognize the ball club's worth, both financial and sentimental. He says that sponsor could easily work a re-naming deal for the stadium as a trade for their funding. At the least, he dreams of a large corporate sponsorship that would guarantee RCB sticks around for team operations.
But that's no guarantee. And sale of the team is a very real possibility.
Tom Williams is the attorney for the GCBC and will deal with the sale. He's not yet sure what kind of a price a minor leage professional baseball club could go for these days.
"($6-million is) the kind of number that I've heard," he says. "I think (speculators) might be basing those numbers on what another team sold for recently" - the Oneonta Tigers were sold for about $6-million just two years ago, and moved to Connecticut - "but obviously...something's worth whatever somebody pays for it. We'll have to wait and see."
There is a chance that if the team does not sell, Major League Baseball would re-absorb it and remove it from the ownership of both GCBC and RCB - and the clubs would potentially come away with no monetary compensation from a sale, which could net as much as $6-million. Williams isn't concerned about that just yet.
"I think that we would find something to do before that happened," says Williams. "We expect that we're going to get some interest in the team. If it's just flat and there's absolutely no interest, then I think we'll have to look at that, and decide what to do.
"But I really don't think that will happen. I think there will definitely be some interest."
WBTA's own Wayne Fuller, Voice of the Muckdogs for years, member of the GCBC Board of Director - and generally considered Batavia’s Mr. Baseball - is somewhat saddened by the news.
"This is something that I've known for a couple of months now," says Wayne. "The Board of Directors, including myself, voted (in May) in favor of soliciting offers for the purchase of the franchise. We did not vote to sell the team; only to solicit offers."
Whatever may happen, today's announcement is one that many Batavians knew was coming, but didn't want to believe. Regardless, it is now a reality that the team may leave town - and the collective air in the lungs of the Batavia community has, at least partially, been let out.
Brian Paris says this is not the time for that. If there were ever a time to get out and support your hometown baseball team, it's now - more than ever.
"I absolutely believe that this team could stay in Batavia," declares Paris. "I believe Batavians don't give up. I believe that we will get people to come out and say 'No, we don't want (the Muckdogs) to leave, we want them to stay. We're going to show you we don't want them to leave by coming out in numbers.'
"Furthermore, should the team be sold: nobody's going to leave it in Batavia if there isn't support. So now is not the time to remove support. Now is the time to step up and support (the Muckdogs), regardless of the outcome."
ORIGINAL REPORT by Dan Fischer
The Rochester Red Wings will not operate the Batavia Muckdogs next year, leaving the local baseball club in desperate search of a new financial backer.
Naomi Silver, CEO Of Rochester Community Baseball, owners of the Red Wings, announced Thursday night that the Wings would end its three year support of the Batavia team at the end of this season.
"There is a general lack of local enthusiasm for the Muckdogs," Silver told the Democrat and Chronicle.
The Red Wings stepped in and assumed operational control of the Muckdogs in 2008. Rochester lost $253,000 in that first year, $143,000 the second and is expected to lose just over $100,000 this year.
Brian Paris, President of the Genesee County Baseball Club, which owns the Muckdogs, confirmed on Friday that the GCBC is soliticting offers to purchase the franchise.
The GCBC will give "strong preference" to potential buyers who pledge to keep the team in Batavia, Paris said. "Batavia has had a team in this league since 1939," he said "and we are very hopeful that we can find a buyer who appreciates the rich history, family atmosphere, great ballpark, and wonderful community spirit of Batavia."
The Muckdogs, currently an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, has been a member of the New York Penn league since 1939.