A year after the national downsizing of minor league baseball, the Maryland Stadium Authority is pitching the creation of a $200 million fund for improvements to the state’s minor league ballparks.
The idea is to strengthen the hands of clubs in preserving their big league affiliations and remaining in the state.
Stadiums in Aberdeen, Bowie, Frederick, Hagerstown, Salisbury and Waldorf would be eligible to apply to the stadium authority to tap into the capital improvements fund.
Legislation creating the fund was drafted by stadium authority and expected to be introduced in the General Assembly soon.
Proceeds from the state lottery — as much as $25 million per year — would be used to pay debt service on bonds needed to finance the projects.
“Major League Baseball has reorganized their minor league system,” said Michael Frenz, the authority’s executive director, in an interview. “Cities have lost teams, and the primary reason has been the adequacy of their facilities. This will help Maryland’s municipalities keep their minor league teams.”
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MLB reorganized the minor leagues after the canceled 2020 season, leaving each of the 30 franchises with four full-season affiliates. That restructuring meant more than 40 minor league teams lost their affiliations to major league organizations in December 2020.
Three of Maryland’s remaining minor league teams — in Aberdeen, Bowie and Salisbury — are Orioles affiliates.
Frenz said the farm clubs and the parent club generate interest in one another.
“There are synergies associated with the minor league teams and the Orioles,” he said.
But the Frederick Keys, who served as the Orioles’ High-A team, were cut loose in the reorganization. Their stadium now will host games in the newly formed MLB Draft League, designed for amateur players to showcase their abilities ahead of the Major League Baseball draft.
Hagerstown lost a team that was affiliated with the Washington Nationals. But the city is in the process of building a new stadium with the help of stadium authority and state funding — scheduled to open in a few years — and will host an Atlantic League team.
The new fund also could be tapped by other sports entertainment venues such as equestrian centers, the stadium authority said.