By Laura Dolejs
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.— As the Chattanooga Lookouts gear up for the 2020 baseball season, approval of Major League Baseball’s proposal to cut 42 Minor League teams, means this could be the Lookouts final season in Chattanooga.
Last year the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the governing body of the minors, heard MLB’s proposal for a new Professional Baseball Agreement. Negotiations are underway to replace the current agreement which expires after the 2020 season. The new agreement proposal included dropping several Double-A teams from New York, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, replacing them with a “Dream League” of unaffiliated players that would operate under the umbrella of MLB.
The goal of MLB’s proposed agreement is to “modernize our minor league system, improve playing conditions for our players, and protect baseball in communities across America.” MLB proposed cutting affiliates, citing concerns over the quality of facilities, travel and salaries.
Lookouts co-owner, Jason Freier, acknowledged one of the reasons the Lookouts had been marked for elimination was because of concerns over the quality of the available facilities.
“Our position for the last five years that we’ve owned the team has been that we know that eventually a new ballpark would be something that would be good for both the team and the community,” said Freier.
AT&T Field has accommodated over 20 years of professional baseball and it is no secret that it is overdue for updates. While plans are in the works for a new stadium “the soonest a new ballpark could be opened at this point would probably be 2022,” said Freier.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke is one of the leaders of a task force of mayors from across the United States opposing the MLB proposal and the elimination of teams.
“All of us understand this plan is a major league error,” Berke said.
Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders also weighed in on the proposal by writing a letter to MLB Commissioner Manfred. In a tweet to MLB, Sanders stated that the proposal to cut teams “has nothing to do with what’s good for baseball and everything to do with greed.”
Lookouts President Rich Mozingo also took to Twitter in a video post about the Lookouts and the value they bring to Chattanooga. According to Mozingo, 2019 was a great year for Chattanooga’s local minor league team stating that over 3,500 people came through the gates every time a game was played.
“There is a long way to go before any of this comes to fruition,” said Monzingo in reference to the MLB proposal. “We’re looking forward to an unbelievably great 2020 season, and can’t wait to bring you more Lookouts baseball.”