Na­tion­als af­fil­i­ate may come to town

Blue Crabs’ fu­ture in ques­tion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TED BLACK tblack@somd­

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 ball­parkdi­ 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).

Base­bal­lamer­ 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.”

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