After being named president of the Beloit Snappers (Low A; Midwest League) in December, Mark Mascharka has stepped down from the post, as the team’s Board of Directors faces the ongoing challenge of mapping the team’s future.
That there are serious issues in Beloit is well-known both in the city and in Minor League Baseball, where MiLB President/CEO Pat O’Conner has warned the team that the condition of Pohlman Field needs to be addressed, and addressed soon: with PBA negotiations coming up for a 2020 deal, the Snappers’ facilities issue must be addressed, says board vice president Jim Agate. It looks like Dennis Conerton will return as president, but that’s a short-term fix; the long-term issue is the ballpark and perhaps selling the team to outside investors who can make baseball work in Beloit. From the Beloit Daily News:
“There’s no question we need a new ballpark if affiliated, professional baseball is going to stay here,” Agate said. “We aren’t looking to have it a done deal by December, but we do need to show Minor League Baseball that we’ve made progress on this thing. There are lots of pieces out there right now, and our job is to start putting the puzzle back together.”
Agate said he will meet with potential investors and community leaders in order to put together a proposal.
“Really what this is is a marriage between baseball people and they key players in the community,” Agate said. “Dennis has all the baseball contacts, and some others on our board like (current secretary) Mary Foster knows a ton of baseball people. They can help bring that side together, and the rest of the board is going to focus on investors that are committed to keeping baseball in Beloit. It would be really sad to a lot of people to simply sell the team and have it go away. Our job is to find people who are willing to invest to keep the team here.”
The bottom line: a new ballpark is needed. From the Daily News:
Agate said there is no way the team would survive in Beloit if a new facility isn’t built.
“Minor League Baseball has made that very clear to us,” Agate said. “We’ve got a until 2020 technically with the contract in place, but in reality we have a relatively short window to get things done and in place. We’re going to be very aggressive this year in going out and meeting with people, not sitting around and waiting for them to come to us. We’ve got a great board with members who are committed to telling our story, and explaining to folks just how important it is for professional baseball to remain in Beloit. “
But the front-office turnover isn’t going to inspire a lot of confidence in anyone, and an investor is going to want to control both a new ballpark and the team. And, of course, any analysis will include a determination on the desirability of Beloit as a MiLB market. It’s small: the Rock County (WI) MSA is only 160,331, and the largest city isn’t Beloit, but rather neighboring Janesville. There have been some eonomic signs of life in Beloit in recent years in terms of downtown development, but the whole area is still reeling from an economic slowdown accelerated by the closing of the Janesville GM plant in 2008.