Rep. Kurt Schrader and Jerry Walker, owner of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Submitted).
Due to a new proposal from Major League Baseball (MLB), the future of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes could be in jeopardy.
However, it's clear that the organization, and team owner Jerry Walker, aren't going down without a fight.
On Tuesday, Dec. 3, Walker traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in congressional efforts to protect the future of the Volcanoes, as well as the other 41 minor league teams across the country that could be facing elimination.
Walker started the day off by meeting with U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.). Schrader was one of 105 members of the U.S. House of Representatives that sent a letter last month asking MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to reconsider the proposal and has tweeted out support for the Volcanoes organization in recent weeks.
In their conversation, Walker shared the on-field success of the Volcanoes and how they have produced multiple players that went onto win World Series titles with the San Francisco Giants. Walker also talked about how the team has met, and in some instances, exceeded facility requirements from the MLB and the possible economic impact losing the Volcanoes would mean for the city of Keizer.
According to Walker, nearly $1.5 million of upgrades, including three new buildings, have been added to Volcanoes Stadium since its construction in 1997.
“The Congressman was very interested and supportive. He asked insightful questions that showed he was well-versed on the issue,” Walker said. “Schrader and I shared many common goals. We are community-first. We both believe in supporting local businesses and we recognize that Minor League Baseball is essential to the communities it represents.”
But arguably the most meaningful part of Walker's trip came during the briefing/news conference that took place on Capitol Hill later in the day.
Four members of Congress — Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), David McKinley (R-W.Va) Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Max Simpson (R-Idaho) — banded together to form the bi-partisan Save Minor League Baseball Task Force, which plans to advocate for each community that stands to lose their minor league teams
Trahan, McKinley, Rose and Simpson all represent districts that feature minor league organizations that would be on the chopping block if the MLB's proposal comes to fruition.
“The Save Minor League Baseball Task Force was one of the most meaningful and authentic shows of legislative support I have seen in my three decades as a professional baseball owner,” Walker said. “The task force not only provided the national venue for the cause of saving the 42 affiliated minor league teams, it also allowed team owners, like ourselves, to share our commitment to local economies and community causes.”
Along with receiving support from Congress, Volcanoes fans and former players from across the globe have voiced their displeasure with the MLB's proposal on saveourvolcanoes.com, a website where fans can sign a petition in support of the organization.
Justin Knoedler, who played for the Volcanoes in 2001 and now resides in Illinois, wrote on the site: “Great place to play, wonderful community and terrific ownership. There are several minor league ballparks that should be shut down, but this one should not be on the list.”
Jeena Huntzinger from Dallas (OR) added: “The Volcanoes are a part of our community in Keizer. The players stay in our homes. The stadium has a picnic area for families during games. The owners pay tribute to our local businesses and charities. The Volcanoes matter a great deal to us. Don’t take them away.”
Over 3,800 signatures have been logged by fans from 47 states and 16 countries.
“Saveourvolcanoes.com was in response to a fan request,” Walker said. “It was felt that if we could, by Opening Day 2020, get 2,021 signatures, representing the importance of keeping our MLB affiliation in 2021 and beyond, that it would be a significant showing of support. Purely on word of mouth, we basically doubled that number of petition signatures in about two weeks and the number is still growing It was one of the purest shows of support I have ever seen for a minor league baseball team.”
While signing the petition on saveourvolcanoes.com is extremely valuable to the organization, Walker says the best thing that fans can do to support the team is simply to come to games this summer.
“Every seat filled in the 2020 season is a critical step for Volcanoes Nation to keep their professional baseball team. Think of it like a town hall format for making a decision — our fans can vote with their in-stadium support,” Walker said.