By Robert Pozarycki
The Staten Island Yankees, the minor league squad affiliated with the Bronx Bombers, are a victim of Major League Baseball’s developmental restructuring program, as reported in Baseball America and the Staten Island Advance.
The New York Yankees announced, however, that professional baseball would remain in Staten Island in the form of a new franchise that may begin play next year as part of the Atlantic League, an independent professional league now working with Major League Baseball.
Under the restructuring plan, the Yankees are sending their single-A summer team away from Staten Island to Somerset County, New Jersey, where they would play as the Somerset Patriots, formerly of the Atlantic League.
The Yankees are also moving their double-A squad, the Trenton Thunder, to Fishkill, New York as the rebranded Hudson Valley Renegades — a former Tampa Bay Rays affiliate.
Even though the “Baby Bombers” are leaving Staten Island, the Yankees said the team is committed to keeping professional baseball there with the addition of an Atlantic League team.
“As a result of our decision, we found it essential that the people of Staten Island continue to have baseball, and we appreciate and thank them for their support. The borough of Staten Island will always be a part of the Yankees family,” the Yankees said in a Nov. 7 statement. “We are committed to working diligently with Major League Baseball, the City of New York Economic Development Corporation, and Staten Island Borough President Oddo to ensure that a team from Baseball’s new partner — the reconfigured Atlantic League — will be playing there this season.”
MLB is in the midst of restructuring its developmental system, the farm teams that franchises have used for generations to prepare baseball players fresh out of high school and college for the big leagues. The restructuring will likely result in the closure of 42 farm teams throughout the league.
The Staten Island Yankees were part the New York-Penn League, which regularly plays ball between June and September and is concentrated in the northeast U.S. The league is often the first stop for ballplayers selected in the annual MLB Draft, held every June.
On Oct. 29, Baseball America reported that MLB is converting the New York-Penn League into a special summer wood-bat league for college freshmen and sophomore players — a move that would take the conference out of the professional ranks.
The Yankees said they had thought about keeping a high single-A team on Staten Island, but found that they “did not have the confidence that the organization could continue to allow us to develop our players in the best possible way, especially since the team would have to transition into a full-season Single-A affiliate.”
Like the Staten Island Yankees, the Brooklyn Cyclones — a New York Mets affiliate — play in the New York-Penn League. There’s no word yet about the Cyclones’ fate, though it was reported that the Mets might move their double-A team in Binghamton to Brooklyn.
The Staten Island Yankees came into being in 1999, playing their first two seasons at the College of Staten Island. In 2001, they moved into their brand new home at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, a short distance from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in St. George.
Like the big squad, the “Baby Bombers” on Staten Island enjoyed great success, winning six New York-Penn League championships between 2000 and 2011. The team produced excellent major league talent, including former Yankee and current Mets second baseman Robinson Cano, outfielders Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner and Wily Mo Pena, and pitchers Chien-Ming Wang and Mark Melancon.