BATAVIA — The possibility that there will be minor league baseball in Batavia next summer is looking brighter.
Rochester Community Baseball announced Tuesday that it will continue operating the Batavia Muckdogs in the 2011 baseball season.
“The Red Wings are very pleased to be able to continue to help Batavia in maintaining the operation of the Muckdogs,” Naomi Silver, president and CEO of RCB Inc., said in a news release.
“The Muckdogs are an extremely important asset; not only of great financial value as a Minor League Baseball franchise, but an important entertainment venue in the Batavia community. We would not want to walk away from the operation, leaving the team at risk of not being able to support itself financially while awaiting a sale.
“Our staying will permit the GCBC board the opportunity to seek out a sale of the Muckdogs on terms which will be most beneficial to the Batavia community.”
The team has been for sale since late summer. To date, several inquiries have been made and conversations with potential suitors are ongoing.
With five months to go before the start of a new season, it is increasingly unlikely that a new owner or ownership group would have the resources — namely a facility — to move the franchise before the start of the 2011 season.
“There’s no facility that I know of, within the geographic area of the New York-Penn League, that would be suitable to move a team into,” said Brian Paris, president of the Genesee County Baseball Club, via phone Tuesday. “So with each day that passes, it grows more unlikely that a new buyer would relocate the team. There’s no guarantee, but logically, it would be difficult to pull off.”
Paris remains optimistic about a local buyer for the team.
“Our hope is that a local sale will occur, or that an individual or company will step forward with an interest in spending substantial sponsorship dollars, allowing the financial picture to improve,” said Paris. “A company interested in naming rights, for example, would make a big difference here in Batavia, the way it has in most communities around the country.”
The existing contract between GCBC and RCB was set to expire Oct. 31.
In mid-August, Paris and GCBC announced they were soliciting bids for the franchise after Silver announced that the RCB was not interesting in managing the club for another season.
However, when the Muckdogs renewed a player development contract with the St. Louis Cardinals in September, Silver’s tune began to change.
“We certainly won’t leave Batavia in a lurch,” said Silver on Sept. 22. “We’d never put Brian and the GCBC in a position to lose their franchise.”
With the current contract only days away from ending, and no new buyer ready, push came to shove for RCB.
In the four seasons the Muckdogs and Cardinals have enjoyed an affiliation (beginning in the 2007 season), the Muckdogs have had a winning record three of the four seasons, including making it to the New York-Penn League postseason twice — and winning the title outright in 2008.
If Batavia was to lose the franchise, the equity that RCB has built in the four years of managing the team — now up to 20 percent of the sale price of the team — would also be gone.
Paris wanted to reiterate that although a buyer from outside the area may come in, if the team remains in Batavia for the 2011 season, patrons should continue their support.
“If someone came in and bought a car dealership, would you stop buying cars?” questioned Paris.
Travis Sick, in his third year as general manager of the Muckdogs, echoes Paris’ sentiments and hopes that the success of the Muckdogs’ 2010 season — a division championship — will bode well for 2011 operations.
Sick is looking forward to solid sales both in advertising and at the ticket office.
“We had a great year on the field this past season, and the Red Wings’ dedication and support of this franchise bodes well for this community,” Sick said in a news release.
“I think our fans and advertisers were concerned that baseball might disappear from the Batavia landscape, but now we can move forward with our planning and sales for 2011. With the recent extension of the working relationship with the St. Louis Cardinals, I think we can expect another great year on the field.”
COMING UP: The Batavia Muckdogs plan to announce their preliminary 2011 schedule today. Check out the Daily News online and in print for what looks to be the 72nd year of minor league baseball in Batavia.