It was just a matter of time before someone in Congress brought out the heavy artillery in the plight of 42 cities who stand to lose their Minor League Baseball teams if Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has his way.
Leave it to someone from Montana to do it.
On Thursday, U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R, MT) has introduced legislation which, if passed, would amend the Small Business Act to prohibit MLB teams from receiving loans under the Paycheck Protection Program if any minor league teams are eliminated by contraction.
The wording of the bill states that, if the Majors cut the 42 MiLB teams, “No (MLB) team shall be eligible to receive assistance under any program carried out under (1) title IV of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act (Public Law 136-116); or (2) any of the amendments made by that title.”
The proposed bill goes on to including a retroactive effect, stating that the legislation would apply to “an action taken by (MLB) on or after enactment of the CARES Act to reduce the number of Minor League teams affiliated with a (MLB) franchise.”
Manfred wants to cut the number of MiLB teams to 120 from its current 162, allowing each MLB team to have four farm teams, but eliminating all short-season teams and leagues, including the Pioneer League, at the end of the 2020 baseball season. The contraction would correspond with the expiration of the Professional Baseball Agreement between the Majors and Minors.
The Great Falls Voyagers, Billings Mustangs and Missoula Paddleheads would be three of those contracted teams.
“Montana’s minor league baseball teams are an important part of our community and bring joy to many Montana families during the summer season,” Daines said, according to a press release. “It would be devastating if we lost our local teams. That’s why I’m introducing a bill to help save baseball in Montana and put pressure on MLB to stop shutting down these small hometown leagues that will take away America’s pastime from Montana communities.”
Voyagers president Scott Reasoner couldn’t have been more tickled to hear the news: “The Great Falls Voyagers could not be more thankful for Senator Daines’ continued efforts to save professional baseball in Montana. This most recent legislation comes after months of work from the Senator and his team. This bill is another great step taken by Senator Daines to show what professional baseball means to our state and the detrimental impact Major League Baseball’s proposed cuts would have on our communities both to individuals lives and our local economies.”
The 2020 Pioneer League baseball season has been all but officially canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, marking the first time since 1969 that Great Falls did not field a professional team. Should contraction go through, it will likely be a long time before the Electric City sees pro ball again.