Sen. Mark Warner visits the Diamond, discusses newly proposed funding for Flying Squirrels

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Senator Mark Warner and other members of congress are looking to lend a hand to minor league baseball following the COVID-19 pandemic. He discussed that plan during a visit to the Diamond in Richmond Thursday afternoon.

Sen. Warner visited to meet with local organization leaders about the recently proposed Minor League Baseball Act. The $550 million Federal Grant Program would help nine Virginia Minor League Baseball teams bounce back after the COVID-19 crisis.

Both Warner and the Flying Squirrels call his proposed minor league baseball act, ‘life or death.’ Some teams are still struggling financially to stay afloat.

“The Flying Squirrels and the nine minor league teams across Virginia are more than just the direct jobs they bring to the community. In many communities, they’re the heart and soul that holds the community together,” Sen. Warner said. “I think it’s time for the federal government to take some of the unused COVID funds and make sure that we offer them the opportunity to participate in a grant program.”

Senator Mark Warner and other members of congress are looking to lend a hand to minor league baseball following the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Rachel Keller)

Warner and Senator Tim Kaine are among a small group of United States senators who introduced the bill last month. According to Warner, the money would come from leftover COVID relief funds.

Todd ‘Parney’ Parnell is the CEO of the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Parnell believes the bill is crucial.

“This has been devastating for a lot of people. It has literally shut our industry down. Now that we’re back, yes we’re back, but we’re not back at full speed. In order to get back at full speed faster and better, the bill that Senator Warner is proposing and backing is critically important to all of us across the United States.”

According to Parnell, he made a big team related purchase right as the 2020 season was set to begin, then the shutdown came. In addition to that setback, Major League Baseball cut back financial support.

At the start of the pandemic most small business owners were able to participate in the PPP program. The small business administration had the EIDL program. When asked why the minor league was left out when small businesses, theaters and music venues were helped, Warner told 8news, there was concern that the money would go to a wealthy major owner.

“This is a much bigger deal than just the Flying Squirrels. It’s all across the Commonwealth and it’s all across the country, said Parnell. “This would really breathe fresh new air into our lungs as a business.”

Warner said his goal is to get the legislation passed before the World Series. If it is passed, funds would be distributed within 30 days.

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