Moving quickly to pick up the pieces of the collapsing New York-Penn League, the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League is on the verge of a major expansion, picking up the Batavia Muckdogs and closing on in the Auburn Doubledays. The Muckdogs announced Tuesday that they will become the 14th team in the PGCBL starting in the 2021 season. Meanwhile, the Auburn Doubledays recently declined to join the new MLB Draft League and sources tell CSBN that negotiations are currently under way for the team to become the 15th member of league. If completed, the move would create a powerhouse league with a footprint covering all of Upstate New York.
The PGCBL is one of the more competitive CSB leagues in the country, always threatening to break into CSBN’s top 10 leagues. PGCBL teams the Amsterdam Mohawks and the Mohawk Valley DiamondDogs have a long history of producing MLB players. This expansion would create a 15-team league split evenly into three divisions, reducing travel costs and allowing for many interesting regional rivalries. The PGCBL plays a 48-game season in June and July with playoffs in early August.
This move to collegiate summer baseball marks the end of a long history of professional baseball in Batavia, a founding member of the New York-Penn League in 1939. After years of attendance declines, the team, under new general manager Brendan Kelly, made many improvements to Dwyer Stadium including to seating areas, outfield fences and playing field conditions and witnessed a 46% jump in attendance from 2018 to 2019. However, the move by Major League Baseball to take over the minor leagues under the new Professional Baseball Agreement, left Batavia out in the cold.
The Muckdogs will be managed by CAN-USA Sports led by Robble Nichols a former American Hockey League player under a five-year agreement. The Nichols’ group also owns the Enforcers hockey team and co-owns the PGCBL’s Pioneers in Elmira, the perennial attendance leader in the league.
The Auburn Doubledays cited increased costs to play in the new MLB Draft League as their reason to decline an invitation to join. Following the expiration of the Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) last year, communities that lost franchises when affiliated minor leagues shrank from 160 to 120 teams were offered the opportunity to join the new Draft League, a summer wood bat league for college prospects preparing for the annual MLB amateur draft. The PBA governs the relationship between the majors and minors.
The struggling Auburn franchise had been for sale for many years. In 2016 NBC Sports Washington reported a potential sale to a local minority businessman who would have moved the team to Waldorf, Md. While not a viable venue for MiLB, Falcon Stadium is a coveted one for CSB. Existing PGCBL owners are among those in the running to take over the franchise.
Widely respected PGCBL President Bob Julian, also a former long-time president of the New York-Penn League, appears to have been the right man at the right time to save baseball in the two Upstate New York Communities. His deep knowledge of baseball and wide-ranging baseball contacts is virtually unmatched in Collegiate Summer Baseball circles and undoubtedly played a key role in the expansion moves.