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Giger counters: MLB sticking it to already hurting minor league teams with new proposal for ballpark upgrades

Photo by Altoona Curve

Talk about pouring salt on an open wound, Major League Baseball is proposing significant and expensive upgrades to minor league ballparks around the country that, if adopted, would be extremely difficult for many franchises to afford and implement.

I had heard recently about some of the proposed ballpark upgrades MLB is considering, and a report Thursday morning in Baseball America outlined many details.

In a nutshell, these changes would be cumbersome and expensive for just about all minor league franchises, and close to impossible and catastrophic for some.

These are just proposals and recommendations at this point, mind you, and nothing has been finalized yet about what will be expected of minor league franchises.

These proposals come at a time when most minor league franchises already are hurting financially after having to miss the entire 2020 season because of the coronavirus. It’s also at a time when MLB is planing to cut 42 minor league affiliates to get the total number down to 120.

Now, adding insult to injury, MLB appears to be using all of the leverage at its disposal to strong arm minor league franchises into making big changes to bring their ballparks up to a higher standard, one that MLB deems necessary so that players and personnel have more comforts.

The Double-A Altoona Curve, who play at Peoples Natural Gas Field, would be one of many minor league franchises that would have to make numerous upgrades.

These details are from the Baseball America report this morning by J.J. Cooper, who has been on top of the minor league contraction and overhaul topics from the outset.

The upgrades include:

**Home and visiting clubhouses need to be at least 1,000 square feet.

**Additional locker rooms for female staff members

**There must be food preparation and eating areas for both the home and visiting teams.

**Enhanced training room requirements

**Teams must have two all-weather pitching and hitting tunnels

**Upgraded lighting standards

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It’s unclear how long franchises would have to implement all of these proposed changes. This section from the Baseball America story details what will happen to teams that don’t meet the standards:

Under MLB’s proposal, MiLB facilities will be docked points for each standard that it fails to meet. Violations will range from 1-10 points per standard missed. Teams will have time to rectify these issues, but if they remain above the maximum points allowed—which is expected to be 15 points—beyond that timeframe, their professional development licenses could be put at risk.

To the best of our reporting, very few facilities currently meet enough of the proposed standards to remain below the points threshold. The locker room for female staff by itself is worth 10 points and puts almost every MiLB team two-thirds of the way to non-compliance.

What people need to understand about many minor league ballparks around the country is that they were built in such ways that make expansion pretty difficult. And more importantly, pretty costly.

The Curve, for instance, have a tremendous ballpark, but adding some of the new upgrades likely would come at a significant expense.

A large number of minor league facilities around the country are nowhere near as good or as modern as PNG Field already is, and those places could be forced to spend a tremendous amount of money to meet the upgrade requirements.

Again, all this comes at a time when minor league franchises are already deeply concerned about finances and how they can operate going forward.

So, what does Major League Baseball do? It’s basically saying, we don’t care about your suffering, because now we’re going to inflict even more pain on you.


Cory Giger has covered minor league baseball for more than 25 years, including being an Altoona Curve beat writer for the past 21 years. He’s also authored three books on the Curve.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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