Nationals affiliate may come to town
Blue Crabs’ future in question
If a pair of proposed deals are approved by Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball in the near future, the Batavia (N.Y.) Muckdogs could be headed to Waldorf next spring to play their home games at Regency Furniture Stadium, current home of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League.
The Batavia Muckdogs, a short-season Single-A team that plays in the New YorkPenn League, is currently affiliated with the Miami Marlins and partially owned by the Genessee County Baseball Club, a nonprofit organization, and run by the
Rochester Red Wings since 2008.
A report Tuesday by Kevin Reichard on ballparkdigest.com said that current plans call for the Muckdogs to be purchased by a group of African-American businessmen and then relocate to Waldorf prior to the 2017 season. The new team would likely become an affiliate of the Washington Nationals, according to Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D).
Baseballamerica.com reported Wednesday that the Blue Crabs would look to move to another market if the Muckdogs come to Southern Maryland. Josh Leventhal’s story also noted that the Atlantic League has been seeking to add teams farther south, and the league hopes to add one more East Coast team, and the Blue Crabs franchise could fill that role.
The Blue Crabs referred APG Media of Chesapeake to owner Peter Kirk for the team’s response. Kirk did not respond to phone calls and emails Wednesday regarding the future of the Atlantic League franchise in Southern Maryland.
But there are still several hurdles that the Muckdogs would have to overcome in order to complete the move, one that is being viewed optimistically by Robinson, but cautiously by another Charles County commissioner. Additionally, Major League Baseball would have to approve the move and overcome any objections from the Baltimore Orioles, which oversees four minor league teams in Maryland — the Bowie Baysox (AA), Frederick Keys (A), Delmarva Shorebirds (A) and Aberdeen Ironbirds (short-season A).
The 30 MLB franchises, including the Orioles and Nationals, represent the upper echelon of the baseball hierarchy. They are followed by their Triple-A (AAA) affiliates, then Double-A (AA), Single-A (A) and short-season A such as the Muckdogs and Ironbirds, which is the lowest level for affiliated ball. Independent teams such as the Blue Crabs are not affiliated and fall below the affiliated teams.
“I think the move would have a positive impact on Charles County,” Robinson said. “The negotiations have actually been ongoing for more than a month, and there’s still a lot that has to happen. Both Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball would have to approve the move. But I think they would like to see more African-American involvement in baseball, something that has been in decline for several decades.”
While Robinson seemed eager to see the move take place, Charles County Commissioners’ President Peter Murphy (D) was largely noncommittal on the topic on Wednesday.
“At this point it’s a little premature,” Murphy said. “I don’t have much information that I can share at this point. Right now I don’t have any details that I can elaborate on at this point.”
Bowie Baysox General Manager Bryan Shallcross said he is aware that the Batavia Muckdogs could be headed to Waldorf next spring, but said much of the relocation process is still speculative at this point. Bowie has played at Prince George’s Stadium since 1994 and last year the Orioles’ Double-A affiliate captured the Eastern League Championship for the first time in its history.
“We’re still gathering facts about the team and about the possible move,” Shallcross said. “We’re not speculating on anything happening anytime soon. We’re waiting to see what transpires with the sale and with Major League Baseball. We definitely consider Waldorf to be in our territory.”
Other sources who requested anonymity mentioned that the relocation has already met resistance from the Orioles for numerous reasons, ranging from the location in Waldorf to the new affiliation with the Nationals. They also said that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred could override any objections from the Orioles and allow the Muckdogs to move to Waldorf.
“Even if the Orioles do not approve the move, [Manfred] could do it,” one source said. “He has that power.”