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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Rochester group cuts Batavia losses but says 2011 is it

In the good news department, Rochester Community Baseball (RCB) reduced the amount of their loss incurred while operating the Batavia Muckdogs in 2010.

Now for the bad news. They still reported a $92,000 deficit for the year on gross revenues of roughly a half million dollars.

That compares to $250,000 in red ink from during their initial season providing business management of the club in 2008 and nearly $150,000 more lost the next year. The actual deficit over the three years is $488,917, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

The silver lining on the dark cloud is that RCB has accumulated five percent ownership of the Muckdogs franchise for each season of their deal, or a total of 20 percent by the end of this season. At an estimated sale price of $4 to $6 million, the Rochester group would seem destined to make an eventual profit, even with continued losses operating the team likely in 2011.

The Batavians are less fortunate, however, as their equity position in the team declines each year. For a good period of time last summer, it looked like 2010 would be the final year for New York-Penn League baseball in the upper New York town.

While they have staved off extinction for another year, the handwriting is on the wall. With continued losses and that erosion in their ownership stake each season, the franchise is slowly bleeding to death.

Last summer, the team was officially put on the market. RCB chairman Gary Larder reminded his anxious shareholders that their annual losses operating the club will end as time for baseball in Batavia runs out.

“The team is for sale,” Larder said. “We don’t expect to be doing it again next year. We expect they will be sold.”

Not surprisingly, the hometown Batavia Daily News painted a more hopeful picture about the situation while acknowledging the sale process is in full swing.

“We are working to find a buyer that will give us what we think is fair value for the team and keep the team in Batavia for another couple of years. That would be the ideal situation,” said RCB COO Naomi Silver.

“Because of our ability to get our (RCB) money out of it in the end, we are not in a desperate situation to find a buyer. We are going to find the right situation. In the last week, I’ve talked to six different parties, and I don’t know if any will come to fruition, but people are interested.”

2011 is potentially shaping up to be a lame-duck season for baseball in Batavia. As soon as possible, new ownership would most likely relocate the franchise to an area with a better facility, greater population draw and of course, a realistic chance to turn a profit that neither RCB nor the Batavia majority owners before them could achieve.

Apparently unconcerned by all this, the St. Louis Cardinals signed a two-year extension of their Player Development Contract with the Muckdogs last fall and are committed to provide players to the team in 2012 no matter where their home might be.

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