The Frederick Keys, pictured here on Opening Day in April 2019, are one of the minor-league teams on the MLB's chopping block.
Just a few weeks after the Washington Nationals won the District its first World Series championship in nearly a century, two area minor-league baseball teams have found themselves on the chopping block.
A new proposal from Major League Baseball would end the affiliations between 42 of its 160 minor-league teams with their major-league affiliates, as reported by The New York Times. Most of the teams that would be affected are rookie ball and short-season teams.
Two of the teams on the so-called "Hit List" are in the Washington region: The Hagerstown Suns, a Class-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals in the South Atlantic League, and the Frederick Keys, a Class-A Advanced affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles in the Carolina League.
MLB says the goal of its proposal is to overhaul player development and improve work conditions in the lower-level minor leagues. Minor league teams counter that the loss of MLB affiliation would essentially be a gut punch to their ability to market themselves and attract fans.
"We've been playing baseball in Hagerstown for over over 100 years," said Tim McDulin, president of the Hagerstown Suns. "Our park was built in 1930. It's a big part of the community."
The Suns' future in Hagerstown has been up in the air since 2012, when the Nationals notified Suns ownership that the ballpark, Municipal Stadium, wasn't up to MLB standards. The team applied to move to Fredericksburg the following year. The deal fell through, in part because of the cost of building a new stadium.
McDulin declined to comment on the pending negotiations with MLB. WAMU has reached out to MLB and the Frederick Keys for comment.
Typically, major league teams like the Nats and Orioles pay their minor-league teams' player and coach salaries, and the farm clubs cover everything else. The current deal between the two leagues expires after the 2020 season.
Nats pitcher Sean Doolittle expressed concerns about the MLB proposal, writing on Twitter that he hopes the plan doesn't come to pass.
Doolittle wrote that the proposal would have a negative effect on local economies that host minor league teams and would only undercut MLB's efforts to grow the sport.
"Minor league baseball brings the game to fans in some more remote parts of the country and gives more people more opportunities to fall in love with the game," he wrote. "...I wish the conversation was about finding ways to improve the existing structure of minor league baseball (paying players more, improving facilities, etc.) rather than tearing it down to try and save money."