Tri-City Dust Devils among MiLB teams on contraction list


Derek Harper

Minor League Baseball (MiLB) offers fans in rural areas to see baseball up close, although the fans in the Tri-Cities could soon lose this opportunity due to the MLB’s plan to contract the team.

Derek Harper, Staff Reporter

Major League Baseball (MLB) is contracting a large number of Minor League Baseball (MiLB) teams ahead of the 2021 season and the impact will be felt hard in many communities nationwide. Some communities will lose their team altogether while others may see their team join a summer collegiate league or professional independent league. Other communities will see their team switch leagues, competition level and many will see affiliation changes. 

For some teams, a change in competition level will mean a change in season length. Two teams in the Single-A Short Season Northwest League said to be on the hit list are the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes and Tri-City Dust Devils, while the others will transition to full season which will see the start of their season moved up from June to April.

Team officials within MiLB point to multiple reasons or officials within the business they claim to be the cause of it. 

Manager of Corporate Partnerships for the Gwinnett Stripers Ryan Kees, who spent time with the Hillsboro Hops for a few years prior to moving to Gwinnett, Georgia had input on everything going on as well as the impact on communities. The two main factors Kees mentioned as the reasoning for this happening are travel and money, with the latter being the main reason in his mind.

According to Kees, for the communities losing their teams or even major league affiliation, it’s the ability for those in the community to go see a level of professional baseball they might not get if they don’t live in a big city or if there wasn’t a team affiliated with an MLB club. 

“It’s access to a level of baseball, professional baseball. It’s access to the sport that is, you know, probably going to go away. Hopefully it just transitions into wood bat leagues like the Pickles or something like that,” Kees said.

Blaine McCormick, former Boise Hawks broadcaster who is now with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, also touched on what a team means to the community, especially the youth. The Pioneer League, which is an Advanced Rookie league with teams in Idaho, Montana, Colorado and Utah is supposed to get cut altogether.

“You look at Billings, you look at Missoula, Great Falls, all those guys are on the hit list right now, all the Pioneer League is on the hit list. You’re losing that impact, you’re losing those players going to those communities and you know, giving those kids that are in the stands an opportunity to see something that they might want to do in the future,” McCormick said.

Roughly two hours southeast of Ellensburg, this is the reality that fans of the Tri-City Dust Devils are facing. Current Padres sensation Fernando Tatis Jr. spent time with Tri-City in 2016, and current Seattle Mariner Ty France spent time with the Dust Devils in 2015.

“It’s a great introduction for family and kids into a sport,” said Kees.