State College Spikes, other New York-Penn League teams will join a new league for 2021
After a year of uncertainty, the State College Spikes announced their path forward Monday.
The Spikes will be one of the founding members of Major League Baseball’s Draft League, which will feature top prospects who are eligible for the baseball draft. The Spikes will be joined by the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Williamsport Crosscutters and West Virginia Black Bears, all from the New York-Penn League; and the Trenton Thunder, of the Eastern League. The league expects to add a sixth team in the next few weeks.
“The new format affirms MLB’s commitment to the region and assures that communities of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New Jersey will continue to host high-caliber baseball and future Major Leaguers for years to come,” MLB said in a statement.
Chuck Greenberg, Spikes chairman and managing partner, said the league will provide a chance for players to compete at an elite level in the weeks leading up to the draft and bring a higher level of talent.
“I truly believe this is a step forward for the Spikes,” Greenberg said during a virtual news conference. “I couldn’t be more excited about it.”
Reports first emerged a year ago that the Spikes, then a St. Louis Cardinals farm team, could lose their affiliation as part of Major League Baseball’s plan to restructure the minor leagues. In response, the team launched Save Our Spikes, a campaign to harness the community’s support.
In June, the entire minor league season was canceled. The team’s future was not clear until Monday’s announcement.
“The last year, obviously, has been pretty stressful in so many ways. Even before the pandemic hit,“ Greenberg said, “the questions about the future of the Spikes, the questions about the future of the New York-Penn League, they weighed heavily.”
Greenberg was sure the Spikes would continue, he said, but he was concerned about what form that would take. The Draft League and the team’s continuing affiliation with MLB are “what I hoped for and more,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Kreamer, said he joined a bipartisan letter in the House to support the inclusion of minor league baseball in future COVID-19 relief legislation. The cancellation of the minor league season hurt clubs, employees, stadium workers and small businesses who rely on the industry, Keller said.
“Our community knew that losing the Spikes is not an option,” Keller said. “The news that the Spikes will retain Major League Baseball affiliation means there is light at the end of this tunnel and minor league baseball will come back stronger than before.”
Fritz Smith, president and CEO of The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau, also struck a cautiously optimistic tone as he discussed a “tough year” for the area. He pointed to about $132 million lost in visitor spending and 1,600 employees in leisure and hospitality out of work.
“We do feel that the turnaround is starting and that we’re going to have a terrific 2021,” he said.
Smith noted that one area that has maintained visitor interest is sports. People want to be part of tournaments and camps: “Sports is in our DNA here.”
“I do think that this new league is going to draw interest and attention, and I think that’s going to raise the attendance level,” he said.
MLB Draft League will be run by Prep Baseball Report, a scouting and event company. Kerrick Jackson, a former college baseball coach, will be president.