Erie lawmakers urge MLB not to cut ties to SeaWolves

Letter to officials cites “unique local connection” to team

ERIE, Dec. 5 – Erie lawmakers are fighting a possible move by Major League Baseball to sever ties with the city’s popular minor league franchise, the SeaWolves. The team was listed among 42 clubs that could lose their MLB affiliation as part of a proposed reorganization in 2021.

In a letter to MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. and Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem, state Reps. Pat Harkins, Bob Merski, Ryan Bizzarro, all D-Erie, and state Rep. Curt Sonney, R-Erie, urged the officials to reconsider a move that they say will permanently injure the region.

“Our community’s 25-year ties to the SeaWolves run deep, and so does our commitment to preserving this incredibly popular Double-A list team,” said Harkins, who cited the city’s recent multimillion-dollar investment in a project to renovate UPMC Park.

“We want Major League Baseball to understand what’s at stake for our region in cutting those ties, from losing a key source of jobs and revenue to ending an affordable, well-loved form of entertainment that keeps younger generations in our area interested in baseball.”

Merski said he agreed, noting, “There are 42 teams on the MLB’s proposed cut list. Only a handful are AA-list teams like the SeaWolves, and very few have newly renovated, multimillion-dollar stadiums. This is the wrong move by the MLB, and we plan to make sure they recognize that now, while it’s still early in the process and when negotiations are just beginning.”

Bizzarro echoed those sentiments, saying, “I was taken aback that the MLB would even consider eliminating these teams. They offer an affordable experience for baseball enthusiasts and families, create jobs, boost economic activity and community revitalization. The economic impact to downtown Erie, including restaurants and hotels, could be more than $10 million annually.

“The state made great investments in UPMC Park, and it’s important that this team stay open for our community to fully realize the benefits of that investment.”

“My colleagues and I are urging the MLB to reconsider this proposal,” Sonney said. "Baseball has brought friends, families and communities together for decades. Taking this away will have negative effects on our region, and I strongly oppose it.”

The list, which was leaked in November, includes three Pennsylvania minor league teams: the SeaWolves, which are a AA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers; the Williamsport Crosscutters, an A-list affiliate of the Phillies; and the State College Spikes, an A-list affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.