I live in Hartwick, NY. If you’re aware of the town’s existence it may be the result of a trip to Cooperstown. That is largely what Hartwick is known for: its proximity to the Home of Baseball. Baseball’s history is right next door. Catching a game though? You have to travel a little farther. The closest Major League teams would be the New York City teams. It’s about a four hour drive to get there. Thus, going to a Major League game is difficult to plan. It can also be quite expensive just to get there and back.
Minor League Baseball has filled the void for my father, my brother, and I. We go to a few games each summer and always have a great time. The Binghamton Rumble Ponies and Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders have been our teams of choice. We have been quite lucky in the games we have seen.
The first game we went to in Scranton, we saw Gary Sanchez hit possibly the longest home run I have seen in person and Aaron Judge hit a home run as well. This was before either of them played an MLB game. At the Binghamton Mets/Rumble Ponies games we have been to, we have seen Michael Fulmer pitch (I believe it was about a month later that he was traded for Cespedes and he won Rookie of the Year the following year). We have seen Luis Guillorme show off his magnificent glove work pre-game. Last year, we saw Mets top prospects Brett Baty and Ronny Mauricio. Baty hit multiple home runs while Mauricio added another himself. If things go as planned, they will get promoted within the next couple years and I will be rooting them on. These moments are fond memories and made me a fan of all these players.
I think I feel most grateful for these experiences because I realize how vulnerable Minor League Baseball can be. Some teams make a lot of money, others do not. Scranton Wilke-Barre seems to do fairly well in the games we go to. It has more people to draw from and, as AAA affiliate of the Yankees, the competition tends to be a bit better. Some of the Rumble Ponies games can be pretty quiet. At a time when making money seems to be the biggest priority for baseball owners, some Minor League Baseball teams are an exception to the rule.
The Future of Minor League Baseball
Luckily, the future of Minor League Baseball seems to be moving in a positive direction. Minor League players, many of whom could barely live on their salary and struggled getting the equipment and training they need as athletes, are finally getting paid housing (albeit with varying quality). There is still a lot that can be done, but these players are finally being included in improvements to the game. For many years, Minor League Baseball was only brought up when a top prospect did well or a new rule/equipment was put in place like electronic umpires or the pitch clock or the electronic pitch signaling system PitchCom. The Minor Leagues are still often brought up in relation to these issues, but there are people talking about their living conditions and their right to adequate compensation as well.
Also, the move to pay for housing suggests that Minor League teams are still important to organizations even if they regularly overlook their needs.
I hope these changes continue and Minor League Baseball becomes a better opportunity for the players and new fans get to experience Minor League Baseball. It has been a huge part of my life that has given me a better appreciation of the experience of a professional baseball game.