Baseball

Boise’s pro baseball is not threatened, owner says. It could get a promotion instead.

Major League Baseball wants to contract its minor league teams by as much as 25 percent, according to a pair of reports Friday from Baseball America and The New York Times.

But the proposal actually could benefit the Boise Hawks, making the team a full-season club at a higher level with a 140-game schedule.

“There’s no threat to the team,” Boise Hawks Vice President Bob Flannery said. “... There’s nothing to worry about with professional, affiliated baseball in Boise.”

The reports came as Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball renegotiate the Professional Baseball Agreement that governs their relationship. The current contract expires after the 2020 season, and Major League Baseball has proposed eliminating all of the short-season leagues outside of spring training facilities.

But that would not include the Northwest League, home to the Boise Hawks since their founding in 1987. Baseball America reported the Northwest League would instead become a full-season circuit that starts its season in April. It did not specify if it would be Single-A or Double-A.

The Hawks currently play a 76-game schedule starting in June.

MLB’s proposal would shake up minor leagues around the country, sending teams up and down levels to create circuits with less travel. Minor League Baseball’s president, Pat O’Conner, sent a letter to his teams warning them “not to make any financial commitments, new lease agreements or schedules beyond 2020,” The New York Times reported.

According to Baseball America, Major League Baseball views 25 percent of the minor-league stadiums in the country as unacceptable. If those stadiums and facilities are not brought up to MLB’s standards, the league wants to pull its players from those stadiums.

Boise’s Memorial Stadium has drawn plenty of complaints over the years as previous owners petitioned for a new stadium. But the stadium is not on that list, said Jeff Eiseman, the president and partner of Agon Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Boise Hawks.

“The Boise Hawks aren’t going anywhere,” Eiseman said. “We’ve had a quiet period of 20-plus years of PBA negotiations. But it appears we might have a noisy one right now.”

The Hawks’ owners have remained quiet in recent months about their desired stadium west of Downtown Boise. But Eiseman said they remain committed to the project.

Boise citizens will vote Nov. 5 on a ballot measure related to the proposed baseball and soccer stadium. If passed, it would require voter approval to spend more than $25 million in city money on a stadium.

Becoming a full-season club would create scheduling concerns in Boise. The Treasure Valley often faces frigid temperatures into April. But Eiseman said that’s an issue for full-season clubs across the country.

“Salt Lake City, their weather is probably worse,” Eiseman said of Utah’s Triple-A club. “Tacoma and Reno have problems. We are not alone. There are lots of clubs that might not have our longitude, but they have our latitude and have to deal with it.”

Boise State’s baseball team will play its 2020 season at Memorial Stadium. But it plans to open an on-campus stadium in 2021, the earliest the Hawks could become a full-season team, removing any overlapping schedules.

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Michael Lycklama has covered Idaho high school sports since 2007. He’s won national awards for his work uncovering the stories of the Treasure Valley’s best athletes and investigating behind-the-scenes trends.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.
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