Multiple media outlets in the Binghamton area are confirming the sale of the Double-A Binghamton Mets to John Hughes of Evans Street Baseball Inc. The sale, which ends months of speculation on the future of the B-Mets, was finalized Dec. 23 and financial details were not disclosed, according to a report in the Press & Sun Bulletin.
Hughes takes over a team that had been owned and operated by local investors for the past 22 years. This lifts the cloud of uncertainty that had been looming over the future of baseball in Binghamton, at least for now. Things were pretty bleak earlier this year when the B-Mets previous ownership was sued by Main St. Baseball out of Florida. They alleged that the Binghamton ownership group breached a contract to buy the Minor League franchise for $8.5 million. The perspective owners want to move the team to Wilmington, Delaware. The owners in Binghamton said that deal had lapsed. The lawsuit was settled in May, but none of the details were released.
Hughes, who said at a press conference on Monday that he intends to live in the Finger Lakes region, assured people that he fully intends to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the team. “We want to be a contributor to the rebirth of the Southern Tier and create a memorable, unique, fun, and affordable fan experience each and every time,” he said in a press release. “As a leader who takes an active hands-on approach, I am committed to upgrading the fan experience, improving community outreach programs, and establishing NYSEG Stadium as a community jewel.”
Binghamton’s current lease with the city is set to expire in 2021, while the current player development deal with the NY Mets runs through 2020. The team has won three Eastern League championships and, if history is any indication, the 24-year working relationship between Binghamton and the big club would continue beyond that as long as everything goes according to plan. On the surface, this is certainly good news for Binghamton and fans of the team, but the reality is that Hughes bought this team to make money. With the Mets finishing last in the league in average attendance in the 2014 championship season with 2,676 and repeating the feat in 2015 with2,766, something has to give. The fans need to buy tickets and change the trend of Binghamton being at or near the bottom of the league since 2010.
It would be hard to fathom an owner keeping a team in a market that doesn’t have the fan support that other teams have. Yes, the previous ownership did it, but many of them had local ties to the Binghamton area. Hughes’ family is in the Buffalo and Westchester County areas. Minor League baseball as a whole has seen their numbers go down in recent years, but Binghamton has the ability to get out and support their local teams. Hopefully this situation makes fans realize how quickly things can change and they fill those seats, as the B-Mets embark on their 25th anniversary season in 2016.