After being listed among 42 minor league teams that could potentially lose their major league affiliations, the State College Spikes on Thursday issued a statement assuring fans that the proposal is far from final and that the team will be back for the 2020 season.
The proposal by Major League Baseball would drastically reshape Minor League Baseball in an effort which MLB claims is meant to make player development more efficient and improve working conditions. It also could establish a "Dream League," a semi-independent league for clubs that lose their affiliations and who could field teams of undrafted players. The number of MLB draft rounds also would be reduced.
"MiLB is early in the negotiations with Major League Baseball, and the process is ongoing, with nothing finalized to this point and perhaps not for quite some time," the Spikes said in a statement.
"However, we are compelled to reassure our fans and stakeholders that we are open for business for the 2020 season, providing the 15th season of fun, affordable family entertainment at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park."
According to a recent New York Times report:
"M.L.B. contends that its proposed reorganization would make the development of up-and-coming players more efficient, while also improving their work conditions. The plan includes increasing the number of days off, reducing travel time, improving transportation and hotel accommodations, and ensuring that ballparks meet M.L.B. proposals for enhanced standards.
"The minor league system has 160 affiliated teams. The proposal, which minor league officials are frantically trying to counter, would cut 42 teams and add two independent franchises for a total of 120 affiliated teams. Eliminating hundreds of athletes from the system would allow baseball to increase the salaries of players on affiliated teams — an issue that has recently been contended in court."
Among those points raised by MLB, State College's ballpark, the 13-year-old Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, has never been an issue.
"While MLB has stated publicly that among their main concerns are facility standards, Medlar Field at Lubrano Park has always been fully compliant with MLB's standards," the Spikes' statement said.
Spikes home games in 2019 drew a total attendance of 119,120, an average of 3,219 per game. That was fourth-best among the 14-team New York-Penn League.
Medlar Field at Lubrano Park is owned by Penn State and leased and operated by the Spikes.
Pat O’Conner, president of Minor League Baseball, told the Times his goal is "to save baseball in all 42 of those communities," and stressed the impact minor clubs have on their communities.
"You have communities that are threatened in this process," O'Conner said. "This is the social function. This is the communal centerpiece."
The Spikes, meanwhile, said their community involvement will continue unabated over the coming year.
"We are also committed to once again support our local communities year-round," the statement said. "Through numerous events here at the ballpark, as well as in-kind and monetary donations, we were able to help raise over $500,000 for local charities this past year alone, and look forward to doing so again in the coming year."
MLB's proposal would eliminate affiliations for most of the Spikes' New York-Penn League peers, including the Williamsport Crosscutters.
A short season affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Spikes have won the NYPL championship twice — in 2014 and 2016.
The Spikes open the 2020 season on June 18 against Williamsport at Medlar Field.
"We look forward to making deer friends once again in 2020, and for many more years to come," the Spikes statement said.