Maximum exposure for those trying to save the Spinners

Lowell Spinners Owner Dave Heller speaks about the minor league team on NBC’s Today Show.
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LOWELL — Cameras rolled on Spinners Owner Dave Heller, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan and others Monday as they spoke on NBC’s Today Show in support of saving the minor league team.

“What we hope is that people across the country see this piece and it galvanizes them to come out and support their local minor league team,” Heller said in a phone interview with The Sun.

This isn’t the first time the Spinners have been in the national spotlight. The team was mentioned in a New York Times piece in November about the possible elimination of 42 affiliated minor league teams.

In October, a leaked proposal from early negotiations on a new Professional Baseball Agreement between Major and Minor league baseball revealed a potential plan to cut 42 teams. The current PBA is set to expire after the 2020 season.

The past two 10-year extensions of the agreement have included “very minor tweaks” Heller said. So he was shocked to learn in the New York Times that the MLB is considering cutting so many teams.

“Without the lure of people being able to see the next generation of Red Sox stars, the Spinners would cease to exist,” Heller said.

On the Today Show, Heller, who has owned the team since 2016, said he first learned of the proposal in The New York Times. “Nobody called,” he said on the show.

Heller currently owns four minor league teams, three of which are at risk of being cut. The Spinners have played in Lowell since 1996.

On Jan. 7, nearly 50 local officials, including new mayor John Leahy, state Sen. Ed Kennedy and City Manager Eileen Donoghue, brainstormed ways to save the Spinners in the team’s locker room at Edward A. LeLacheur Park.

“We have a strong team, and I am confident our fight to keep this affordable, fun night out for families available to all for years to come will be successful,” Trahan, who hosted the meeting, said in a statement.

The issue “transcended partisanship,” Trahan said on the Today Show.

The representative and Lowell native co-chairs the Save Minor League Baseball Task Force, and recently introduced a resolution arguing that the MLB should keep its current minor league structure.

“This would devastate not just all these communities but millions of fans who their only access to a professional game are these minor league teams,” Trahan said on NBC.

The resolution has garnered around 100 co-sponsors. Similar legislative actions have popped up in the Senate and saving the 42 minor league teams has become a discussion among some 2020 presidential candidates.

“This isn’t just a Lowell team. This is a Merrimack Valley team,” Trinity EMS President John Chemaly said in a phone interview with The Sun. He also co-chairs the Save Minor League Baseball Task Force.

Chemaly told The Sun he doesn’t understand why the Spinners, a “viable community asset,” would be cut.

According to a letter from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to Markey and Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Dec. 20, the MLB seeks to cut costs and take control of the minor league farm system to “improve facilities; access to modern health and nutrition services; provide higher quality hotels, clubhouse food and sleeper buses for long road trips and more off days.”

Trahan said reports of minor league stadiums in disrepair and poor conditions for players does not apply to LeLacheur Park or the Lowell Spinners.

“That’s why I have always been against these blanket cuts,” Trahan said. “It’s so clear to me, we in Lowell enjoy one of the best minor league parks in the country. We have close proximity to the Red Sox. If there are other improvements, let’s have that conversation.”

Chemaly said losing the Spinners could be “detrimental” for the city’s economy.

“They bring a lot of money into the city,” he said, including flow to nearby businesses and restaurants.

Spinners games average about 3,000 fans per game, and about 120,000 attendees throughout the 38-game season.

“It’s the excitement of the game. It’s the community spirit. It’s watching the kids that have grown up playing Little League,” Chemaly said. “I cant see eliminating baseball from these kids’ lives.”

And at LeLacheur Park, Heller added, families can see future Red Sox players for as little as $4 a ticket.

There’s excitement in getting a ball autographed by the next Mookie Betts, or snapping a photo with a future Andrew Benintendi, he said.

“We’re developing the next generation of fans and that’s a wonderful thing,” Spinners Vice President Brian Lindsay said on NBC about the minor league team’s Red Sox affiliation.

“The best thing that people can do to support the Spinners is buy tickets,” Heller told The Sun. “If people do that, we’ll be just fine.”

Opening day is June 18.

The MLB and MiLB will meet on Thursday in Dallas, Texas, for a formal negotiating session, according to Heller.

“Hopefully we’ll have a better sense of where things are after that meeting,” he said.

“I think that the Spinners are not just an integral part of the city of Lowell. I believe we are part of Lowell’s DNA,” Heller said. “We are deeply woven into the fabric of Lowell.”