NORWICH–U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal has become the latest Connecticut official to urge Major League Baseball to save the minor league team in Norwich, warning congressional action might be taken.
In a letter sent Friday to Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr., the Democratic senator said that if MLB “turns its back” on communities like Norwich, Congress “must look at appropriate remedies, including removing Major League Baseball’s anti-trust exemption.”
Major League Baseball has proposed a contraction plan that could end minor league baseball at Dodd Stadium in Norwich and parks across the nation by eliminating its affiliation with 42 teams, including the Norwich Sea Unicorns – formerly the Connecticut Tigers – Norwich’s Class A New York-Penn League team.
State, local and federal officials representing communities where those teams are located have been pushing back on the plan.
“MLB has a trust obligation to support minor league teams regionally all around the country,” Blumenthal wrote, noting how the Norwich community is investing more than $800,000 in upgrades to its stadium, including new energy efficient LED lighting.
“This demonstration of strong local support should be encouraged by MLB,” said Blumenthal, noting he understands there are plans to reduce the status of the team to “a sort of ‘Dream League,'” he wrote. “A greatly diminished status harms not only fans but also countless businesses and residents who depend on the team for employment and revenue.”
Governor Lamont also sent a letter to MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred earlier this month “to express strong opposition” to MLB’s contraction plan, saying the Norwich team is “a valuable component of our state as the team provides families with an affordable sports and entertainment opportunity within their own local communities.”
Manfred responded, saying that negotiations with Minor League Baseball “are at a very early stage” and that Minor League officials had “an inaccurate and distorted account of our conversations.”
Baseball recently responded to Congress with a letter outlining problems with the minor league system, including stadium conditions and travel issues. It promised to offer alternatives to any community that loses its MLB affiliation.