HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — Could 2020 be the last year for minor league baseball in Hagerstown and Frederick?
For decades the major leagues have backed their future star players. From the Frederick Keys, a feeder to the rebuilding Baltimore Orioles, and the Hagerstown Suns, Class-A affiliate to the World Champion Washington Nationals. However, cost-cutting contemplated by the major league owners could leave the future stars in the dust, with an economic blow to communities that are home to the feeder-system.
But Hagerstown civic leaders may have a winning strategy.
Washington County Chamber President Paul Frey said, “We’re working on creating a new event complex downtown. Part of that will be baseball stadium. The Suns could be a major tenant here.”
The Maryland Stadium Authority has prepared a feasibility study on the proposal which its spokesperson, Rachelina Bonacci, says gives civic leaders “unbiased and objective” criteria to help decide on how to proceed.
It’s a pitch that gets the “go” sign from the business community.
According to Hagerstown & Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau president Daniel Spedden, “We, within next five or six months hope to secure a positive agreement on building our new facilities. And we take that to Major League Baseball and say we want a fully-affiliated minor baseball team.”
Spedden says the Suns are the city’s leading tourist attraction and notes that 16 states have major league teams and 40 states have minor league teams.
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) issued a statement Tuesday that “minor league baseball has become a part of the fabric of many West Virginia towns.” The Class A West Virginia Power in her hometown, the capital city of Charleston, could be on the chopping block. So too could be the teams in the southern part of her state, Bluefield and Princeton.
All told, as many as 42 minor league franchises could be eliminated.
Major league owners met in San Antonio, Texas Tuesday and will “bat this around” at their winter meetings in San Diego next month. It could well be after the 2020 season before we know what the future holds for both the Suns and Keys.