About this time last year, Major League Baseball (MLB) announced that they would would be taking additional control of Minor League Baseball (MiLB), with the largest ramification being shrinking down the amount of minor league teams throughout the country. Sadly, it seemed that local minor league team, the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, an affiliate of the New York Mets, was one of the teams on the chopping block. The team was told they’d be cut about a month later, and many took to social media to rally for the team to stay in its hometown, including a feature by the New York Times.
Part of the reason the Rumble Ponies were set to be dropped from the MLB development system was the team’s low attendance statistics, despite a total of $9.5 million poured into the NYSEG stadium in the last six years, funded by both the city of Binghamton and New York state. After pushes from Binghamton Mayor Rich David, State Sen. Fred Akshar, Rumble Ponies owner John Hughes and even Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Mets released a statement that the Rumble Ponies would remain a NY Mets affiliate, alongside the Brooklyn Cyclones, who were initially set to replace them as the team’s Double-A affiliate.
Now, technically the Rumble Ponies could have become an independent team without the Mets’ affiliation, but it would be extremely difficult to succeed financially. Losing the affiliation would devalue the team and significantly decrease fan interest. The Rumble Ponies have had notable players and staff throughout the years, including 2017-2018 manager, Luis Rojas, who would be promoted to manager of the Mets at the start of this year and Pete Alonso, the 2019 National League Rookie of the Year.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the change of heart by the Mets was a major change in leadership that happened two weeks ago. The team was sold to Steve Cohen, who then hired former general manager Sandy Alderson as the new team president. Alderson made the announcement that Binghamton would remain as an affiliate at the pair’s introductory press conference last week.
Holding on to the Rumble Ponies isn’t just a decision that’s meaningful for the sports fan, it’s good for everyone in the surrounding area. Keeping the stadium open and running provides a substantial amount of jobs to the community and diversifies economy so that Binghamton University and the subsequent downtown scene it provides are not the only major source of income for the local residents. The players, owners and managers of the team are not the only ones impacted by this decision either. There are groundskeepers, food and merchandise vendors, a local tourist scene fueled by traveling teams and even younger students working as bat-boys who benefit financially by the team sticking around. Many BU students have also showed up for events and games at the stadium. In turn, many Rumble Ponies fans may show up to cheer on BU students in games down the line. Developing as much of a relationship between the University and local residents as possible is key to a healthy and supportive environment for all involved, and sports is absolutely an essential part of that.
Of course baseball, like so many other aspects of our lives, was put on hold this summer due to COVID-19. Considering most of the baseball season takes place during summer, this was already a large financial impact. Local restaurants, hotels, players and other employees of the team have already suffered losses. With the team staying in Binghamton, it may be able to help many get back on their feet after COVID-19 restrictions lift and could be the boost the local area needs. If life really is a lot like baseball, we’ve seen that neither will stop as a result of the pandemic. The national pastime, and those who are an integral part of its success, will always be here.