An investment group has signed a contract to buy the Batavia MuckDogs (short season A; NY-Penn League) and move the team to Waldorf, Md., for the 2017 season, becoming the first African-American owned team in Minor League Baseball since 1987.
It’s not totally a done deal. The plan still requires permissions at the Major League Baseball level, as both the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles ownership groups have a say over the matter, but organizers (who spoke under terms of anonymity) are confident any concerns can be addressed. It would be a groundbreaking event for Minor League Baseball: there are no teams in organized baseball led by black majority owners. And it’s been long in the works, with the sales and recruiting effort dating back to last year.
The team would play at Regency Furniture Stadium, currently home of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (independent; Atlantic League). We’d expect that ballpark to require some upgrades to raise it to MiLB standards.
To say that this is a groundbreaking development is an understatement: as we noted last month, there’s a paucity of minority voices in baseball’s owner suites, both in MLB and MiLB. To his credit, MiLB President/CEO Pat O’Conner has made diversity a goal for the industry and has worked to raise awareness among existing MiLB front offices, and this development could be an important milestone in that effort. But, as we also noted last month, this is a long slog and won’t be addressed by any single development. ADDED: The last minority-owned team we could find was the Savannah Cardinals of the South Atlantic League, owned by Thomas Lewis and run by Tracy Lewis for two seasons.
The Muckdogs have been managed by the Rochester Red Wings (Class AAA; International League) for the past several years and been openly for sale. The MuckDogs are currently a Miami Marlins affiliate, but we’d expect that to change down the road as part of the deal.