The State College Spikes have been saved. The team will no longer be an affiliated club in minor league baseball as a short-season franchise, but the Spikes will be part of the new MLB Draft League, which will feature top-notch college players getting prepared for the upcoming draft each year.
“This is a very exciting day for the State College Spikes,” owner Chuck Greenberg said during a Zoom press conference.
The announcement of the MLB Draft League was made this morning by MLB. The Spikes will be one of five founding members of the league, with others including: Williamsport Crosscutters, Trenton Thunder, Mahoning Valley Scrappers and the West Virginia Black Bears.
All of those teams previously had been minor league baseball affiliates but will not be part of the 120 affiliated teams going forward. The announcement of the 120 teams is expected to be released later this week, according to sources.
The Altoona Curve are expected to be one of the 120 teams to remain minor league affiliates.
The Spikes will play a 68-game season, from late May until early August. A sixth team is expected to be added to the league, as well.
Greenberg spoke at great length about the merits of this new league and how it can provide the Spikes as good of a situation — and in some cases even better — as they previously had as a New York-Penn League team in affiliated ball.
“It’s everything that’s been great about Spikes baseball, and more,” Greenberg said.
“I just couldn’t be more excited about it. … I really think this is an exceptional, wonderful day.
This will be amateur baseball, not professional baseball, as the Spikes had previously. But the quality of the baseball could be even better, since pretty much all of the players on all of the teams will be draftworthy players.
As a New York-Penn League affiliate, the Spikes did have some high draft picks over the years, but a lot of their roster was often filled with undrafted free agents and players with low ceilings.
“We believe going forward the concentration of Major League Baseball level talent will be even greater and have players from all around the country from most all of whom will be college players coming to one of the ultimate college towns in the country to show what they can do to improve their draft position,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg was asked if the situation arises in the future, would the Spikes want to be part of affiliated ball again. He answered that question with an interesting take.
“In our minds it’s every bit as affiliated as the original supply system was, it’s just that instead of having players right after they were drafted, we’re gonna have them right before their draft,” Greenberg said. “So to us, this is affiliated, personally.
“We were all comfortable with the status quo. I would have been perfectly happy if that would have continued forever and ever. But I’m really excited about this. I mean, we’re one of six teams in the country that are going to be part of this format, and that makes it really special and the composition of this league is really good.”
This path, Greenberg added, is not “intended to be a stepping stone to something else because we like this, we’re genuinely excited about it.”
The owner went on to add: “None of us knows exactly how the future will unfold,” he added. “I think the last year certainly demonstrates that. And so no one knows exactly how things might evolve in the future, just as they’re evolving as we speak.
“The important thing is that, on behalf of the Spikes in the community, we’re going to continue to be a part of the affiliated system. We’re going to continue to play in an elite stadium that I would put in the upper echelon of any professional or collegiate facility in the country. And we’re gonna have a continuing opportunity to show the entire baseball world. What a special thing we have going there.”
As far as finances go, Greenberg called the move from short-season affiliated ball to this new system and “apples to apples” comparison. The money part, he noted, will “pretty much be a wash.”
Ultimately, being part of the MLB Draft League will allow the Spikes to continue to operate as a high-level franchise, during a time in which many other cities are losing their minor league teams altogether.
“We’re going to be really well positioned to continue the Spikes for a long time,” Greenberg said.