It had seemed inevitable for more than a year, but Tuesday’s announcement officially slams the door on their affiliation with the Marlins.
As the name would suggest, the PGCBL operates using players who still have college eligibility remaining. This transition marks the end of long tradition of professional baseball in Batavia which dated back to the founding of the New York-Penn League (NY-P League) in 1939.
For the seven most recent Minor League Baseball seasons (2013-2019), Marlins prospects played for the Muckdogs at the Short Season A level. The lower rungs of the Fish farm system were bereft of talent for most of that span, and especially after ownership change, the franchise was reluctant to assign early-round draft picks to play there.
With that in mind, the Muckdogs’ overall mediocrity was unsurprising.
Dwyer Stadium attendance had been in steady decline, perennially drawing the smallest crowds of any NY-P League team. And Marlins players told Fish Stripes that the field conditions were unacceptable.
But new general manager Brendan Kelly was just beginning to lead a Muckdogs resurgence. The team refreshed its approach to promotions and social media, invested in improvements to the outfield fences and seating areas and hired a talented young groundskeeper to maintain a safer and more aesthetically pleasing playing surface. Hence, the 48.6% average attendance boost from 2018 to 2019.
Alas, those steps did not curry enough favor with Major League Baseball to secure Batavia one of the 120 full-season affiliates available under the new Professional Baseball Agreement. In June, NY-P League president Ben Hayes said he was hopeful that Minor League Baseball’s restructuring could be delayed by a year to allow teams on the chopping block to celebrate an official “goodbye season.” That request was denied.
Even if the Muckdogs had retained their MiLB status for 2021, odds are they would have partnered with a different MLB franchise. The restructuring sought to align as many affiliates as possible according to geography. Miami and Batavia, New York are separated by 1,400-plus miles.
More than a dozen alumni of the 2013-2019 Muckdogs rosters have since reached the major leagues, including Brian Anderson, Domingo Germán, Trevor Williams, Jarlin García, Chad Wallach, Austin Dean, JT Riddle, Trevor Richards, Dillon Peters, Tyler Kinley and Humberto Mejía. Other former Muckdogs—Edward Cabrera, Jerar Encarnación, Nasim Nuñez, Peyton Burdick, Josh Roberson and Dylan Lee—are still highly regarded prospects who could soon be making their own Marlins debuts.