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Pennsylvania minor league baseball teams continue to fight for their right to exist

MATT BREEN
The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
Williamsport Crosscutters logo

The reports of the Williamsport Crosscutters’ demise have been greatly exaggerated.

The Phillies’ minor-league affiliate was thought to be on the chopping block, but the team disputed those reports in a statement Sunday.

Baseball America and the Associated Press reported last week that Minor League Baseball was prepared to agree to a proposal by Major League Baseball that would eliminate 40 teams. MiLB and MLB have been negotiating a new professional baseball agreement — the contract that binds the two parties — since last year and MLB has pushed to trim the minors to save costs.

The Crosscutters, who play in the short-season, Class-A New York-Penn League, were rumored to be among the teams cut. The New York Penn League was one of four leagues that would be eliminated under the proposal from MLB. The league was founded in 1939 and also includes the Cardinals’ affiliate in State College. The State College Spikes launched a “Save Our Spikes” campaign to rally support.

“Despite recent articles to the contrary, there has been no agreement between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball on contraction or any other issues regarding the Professional Baseball Agreement, due to expire after the 2020 season,” the team said. “The respective negotiating teams of MiLB and MLB are continuing their discussions, with the goal of concluding a mutually beneficial long-term agreement in the near future. The Crosscutters look forward to continuing to be part of the Williamsport landscape in 2021 and beyond.”

Under the proposal from MLB, each major-league team would have four full-season, minor-league affiliates along with a rookie-league club that plays at their spring-training complexes, along with a team in the Dominican Summer League.

The Phillies’ four full-season affiliates are single-A Lakewood, high-A Clearwater, double-A Reading, and triple-A Lehigh Valley. The Phillies own the Clearwater Threshers and Reading Fightins, while the Crosscutters, Lakewood BlueClaws, and Lehigh Valley IronPigs are independently owned.

The Crosscutters are owned by Trinity Sports Holdings, which also owns the Cardinals’ triple-A team in Memphis and the Yankees’ single-A affiliate in Charleston, S.C. Trinity, based in Armonk, N.Y., also has a stake in the New York Yankees.

The Crosscutters have been a Phillies affiliate since 2007 and play at 94-year-old Bowman Field. The stadium has recently undergone a $3 million renovation project and has hosted an MLB game in each of the last three seasons to coincide with the Little League World Series.

“The respective negotiating teams of Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball held a constructive meeting on Wednesday,” Minor League Baseball said last week. “The parties are continuing their discussions, with the goal of concluding a mutually-beneficial long-term agreement in the near future.”