Muckdogs drag Rochester deeper into financial muck

Rochester Community Baseball, the organization that stepped in last winter to rescue the floundering Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League, has released their financial statement for 2008, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Unfortunately, RCB lost over a quarter of a million dollars running the St. Louis Cardinals’ short-season NY-P affiliate this past season, that on the heels of another six digit loss in 2007 when the club was operated locally. Had the Rochester group not stepped in, the League was seriously considering pulling the plug on the franchise.

Despite their first league championship in 45 years in 2008, the Muckdogs’ attendance was basically flat at Dwyer Stadium at around 45,000 for 38 home games. In fairness to them, the Rochester group got a late start last season but committed this fall to give it another year.

For 2009, they can build a full head of steam to sell tickets and advertising, the two primary revenue sources. To help carry that out, RCB has brought in their own management team to operate the Muckdogs this coming season.

In a bit of an unusual arrangement, two young men will split the traditional general manager role for the ‘Dogs under the direction of highly-respected Rochester GM Dan Mason. Travis Sick, 23, was named the General Manager of Baseball Operations while 31-year-old Casey Freeman is the new GM of Stadium Operations.

Rochester management is a proven team that has demonstrated the ability to turn a profit in running a minor league club. The Red Wings, the Minnesota Twins’ affiliate in the International League, made over $150,000 last season, yet that was not enough to offset the Batavia loss.

RCB Chief Operating Officer and Chairman of the Board Naomi Silver was properly optimistic but also acknowledged the business reality in telling the Rochester paper, “…Batavia was a tough nut. We won’t stay in Batavia indefinitely if the operation continues to lose money.” Last week at Baseball’s Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Silver was named Minor League Baseball’s Executive of the Year by Baseball America.

As far as the on-field product is concerned, the parent Cardinals are doing their part, too. The championship team put onto the field and managed by veteran Mark DeJohn was anchored by 15 collegians from the 2008 draft, including our Batavia Position Player of the Year, Colt Sedbrook.

Other stars were our Cardinals system Rookie Starting Pitcher of the Year Scott Gorgen and Rookie Reliever of the Year Adam Reifer, along with some exciting youngsters such as then 17-year-old Venezuelan centerfielder Frederick Parejo.

In addition, this fall the Cardinals stepped up and committed to supply players to Batavia for two more seasons, covering 2009 and 2010. They came to Batavia after the Philadelphia Phillies moved out following the 2006 season. In 2006, the nomadic Cards franchise played their only year in State College, PA and prior to that called New Jersey home.

The right management seems to be in place and the right on-field product should again be there. It remains up to the people of Batavia and the surrounding area to get behind their team.

The signals are pretty clear that the community business leaders need to step up and regional fans have to come out in greater numbers to support the Muckdogs or they could easily backslide into the very tenuous spot they found themselves following the 2007 season.

If the All-Star team of Rochester Community Baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals can’t pull it off, who else would take the risk to try to help pull the Batavia Muckdogs out of their own deepening financial muck?