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Warner and Kaine Go to Bat for Squirrels

Flying Squirrels
Minor league baseball teams like the Richmond Flying Squirrels, seen here practicing before a game, could seek to recoup financial losses due the pandemic if a bipartisan bill proposed by Senator Mark Warner gets passed. (Photo: Ian Stewart/VPM News)

Baseball, America’s oldest past time, took a financial hit during the pandemic. But it was minor leagues that took the brunt of the bat when the pandemic shuttered their 2020 season. 

To help them recover, Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine worked on a bipartisan bill called the Minor League Baseball Relief Act, which seeks to create a $550 million federal grant program. Besides Warner and Kaine, the bill was co-authored with Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). 

Warner said the bill is modeled after the “Shutter Venues Act," and will allow minor league teams to receive up to 45% of their 2019 revenues, with a cap of $10 million. 

“We need this legislation passed before the World Series,” Warner said on Thursday at a press conference held at The Diamond, the baseball park home of the Flying Squirrels. 

Warner/Parney
Sen. Mark Warner listens to Richmond Flying Squirrels CEO Todd "Parney" Parnell prior to Warner speaking to a crowd at The Diamond about his legislation. (Photo: Ian Stewart/VPM News)

Warner met with Squirrels CEO Todd “Parney” Parnell and other business leaders who benefit from The Diamond’s attendance. Parney said at one point in the pandemic, he went from a staff of 34 employees down to eight. He added that during the pandemic his revenues were down about 95 percent. 

“There was an emotional toll, an intangible toll and a tangible toll. And this bill that Senator Warner’s proposing is going to help propel us back closer to what we used to be,” Parney said. 

Besides the Flying Squirrels, Virginia is home to eight other minor league teams who would benefit from the bill.  

Warner/Parney
Sen. Warner was presented with his own Squirrels hat and jersey after his conversation with team staff and business owners. (Photo: Ian Stewart/VPM News)