Is it time to consolidate Class A and B?

Posted on Feb. 20, 2014 by CJ Siewert 

While Class C continues to thrive with more than half of Minnesota amateur baseball’s 300-plus teams, the MBA Board is starting to consider ways to help the growth and promotion of Class B, and especially Class A.

Class A has struggled in recent years with the loss of at least five teams in as many years. Last year, Class A had less than 40 teams competing in four leagues.

One idea to help Class A that was presented at the Board’s Feb. 15 meeting is to eliminate the 494/694 barrier.

Article 9, Section C, Subdivision 2, of the 2014 MBA Handbook states, “The Board shall have the authority to classify/reclassify all teams considering A, B, C. Class A teams cannot go outside the 494/694 loop to obtain any players residing outside the 494/694 loop without permission from the board. Class B and Class C teams cannot go inside the 494/694 loop to obtain any players residing inside the 494/694 loop.”

Consideration to eliminate the 494/694 barrier rule – which was enacted in 1986 – would pertain to Class A and B teams, while Class C teams would still adhere to the rule. Retaining the rule for Class C would ensure no teams close to the metro would have an unfair advantage over outstate teams. If Class C teams were to go inside the loop, they would be reclassified as Class B.

If the 494/694 barrier is broken for Class A and B, those teams would have to abide to the 30-mile player radius rule, which says players can only play for teams within 30 miles of their residence.    

“We are not completely there yet. It’s more of a conceptual phase at this point,” said Dave Hartmann, MBA secretary. “We are probably a year away from doing anything with that.”

Eliminating the 494/694 barrier may help Class A teams to obtain more players, but it also may be more beneficial for Class B teams. MBA Vice President Fred Roufs said Class A may have more to lose than gain with the potential rule change. 

“It puts Class A teams more at risk because if you get a borderline ball player that’s used to paying $250 to play ball and a Dundas or Miesville comes in and says ‘We got three sets of uniforms and a free duffle bag and our concession stand is open after the game.’ You can get there in a hurry from the Twin Cities,” Roufs said.

The reference to paying to play applies to many Class A players. Teams have to rent fields and oftentimes don’t have any sources of revenue other than business sponsors. 

For example, all teams in the Park National League play their games at Parade Stadium, which charges a fee to use the field. Fans, players and umpires all have to pay to park and teams are not allowed to charge admission to the game. There are also no concessions, which is a primary source of funding for many teams across the state.

With all that considered, the MBA Board will spend the following months mulling over the options for player eligibility in Class A and B.

Another option to consider is the consolidation of Class A and B.

With struggling attendance at Class A and B state tournament games in recent years, consolidation may be a way to create another large class – such as Class C – that could generate more interest.

But at this point, all ideas are simply ideas and many questions have to be answered before a final decision is made. 

Check out additional content below