STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WTAJ)– In November, 2019, Major League Baseball announced a proposal that would cut 42 Minor League teams across the nation.
Among those on MLB’s “cut-list” were the State College Spikes, the short-season Single-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
MLB claims their proposed cuts would make development of players more efficient by giving them more days off and “better working conditions.” Also, MLB said by eliminating hundreds of athletes from the system, it would allow the remaining players to receive a higher salary.
Many in the State College community, however, are fighting against the notion of eliminating the Spikes. Thursday, team leadership, along with local officials hosted a press conference to announce a new campaign, which they hope will keep the team in Happy Valley.
One key focus of the press conference was highlighting the team’s impact on the community.
Here is the story:
State College is going on 15 seasons of seeing Spikes baseball… but that could go away with the end of the 2020 season.
“It’s hard to imagine now, 15 years later, with all the success we’ve had, that now we’re facing this moment,” PA Senate Majority Leader (representing the 34th District) Jake Corman said.
Spikes General Manager Scott Walker shared a similar reflection: “I don’t remember what it was like without the spikes. I grew up watching them and I’d hate to lose such a community treasure.”
The GM said he has not been in direct contact with MLB officials on the potential cuts.
Currently, he’s been spearheading efforts on a “Save Our Spikes” campaign… feeling that going “all-out” in this movement will send a strong message: the team will do whatever they can to stay in State College.
“If we gotta make some concessions on our end, we’re happy to do it,” GM Walker said.
One change discussed that might please MLB and give the team a better chance of staying is having them transition from playing a short-season to a full-season.
“We’re fully capable of doing that,” the GM said.
The only thing GM Walker is not willing to accept is leaving affiliated baseball.
“We have to be affiliated. The studies done about Independent League Baseball show that they’re just not a viable option,” he said.
Beyond talk of potential changes in the future, Thursday’s press conference centered on the Spikes’ impact on the community.
Many speakers mentioned the more than $5 million the club donated to the community since 2006. About $500,000 was donated in 2019.
“Pennsylvania’s Minor League Baseball teams are cornerstones of our communities. The Spikes are not an exception… giving a wholesome, local, low cost form of entertainment to hundreds of thousands of families every year,” said PA Governor Tom Wolf’s Executive Deputy Secretary, Neil Walker.
Many feel those hundreds of thousands of people have an impact on the local economy–creating stadium jobs while selling an average of 125,000 tickets a year.
“That’s 125,000 people who are eating at local restaurants, shopping at local stores, filling up for gas at local stations, and staying in local hotels. It would be a huge loss to this local economy if MLB’s proposal were to move forward.”Neil Walker
Statistics show the average attendance at Spikes games is about 3-thousand people, which is in the top third of the New York-Penn League.
This stat has many adamant that if the team is not seriously struggling to sell tickets, and is staying “out of the red”, MLB should not force them out.
“I think to remove these teams, for not a financial reason, but another reason, is a mistake on MLB’s part,” Senator Corman said.
He feels that keeping Minor League Baseball teams will help the grow the game of baseball, inspiring young fans in towns across the nation to grab a ball, bat, and glove–and play ball.
“That’s ultimately what major league baseball wants. I don’t think retracting is good for them to grow their game,” Senator Corman said.
He says the state will continue to support the Spikes, and updates needed at the team’s stadium (Medlar Field at Lubrano Park).
PA lawmakers and Governor Wolf have voiced opposition to MLB’s proposed cuts, but legislators at the federal level have more oversight on the cuts.
Discussions will continue between MLB leadership and those in congress. Right now it’s evident not all congressionals are in favor of shaving down minor league teams.
As of December 2019, five members of Congress formed a Save Minor League Baseball Task Force, aiming to keep as many teams as possible.
The Spikes are guaranteed to play a complete season in 2020, and have adjusted the start of their games this season.
Monday thru Saturday games will being a half-hour earlier at 6:35 p.m. with Sunday games beginning at 4:05 p.m.
GM Walker said this season, outfield seats will be priced at $6…the same as they were 15 years ago.
Here is a link to saveourspikes.com.