Cooperstown insists it can still thrive

Updated: January 23, 2013, 4:33 PM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

Jeff Katz wants everyone to know that Cooperstown will be OK.

The mayor of the small village in upstate New York that houses the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum says that not having a living inductee this summer, for the first time since 1965, won't put his town's stores out of business.

"The idea that this will seriously hurt our town is just not true," Katz said.

[+] EnlargeCooperstown
Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty ImagesThe Baseball Writers of America, for only the second time in 40 years, failed to give more than the required 75 percent of the vote to any player.

Katz, who has held the top political office in the town of about 1,850 people since last year, said big induction weekends -- like the summer of 2007 that brought a record 75,000 strong to see Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn -- are a nice boost, but the city doesn't run its entire budget on that one weekend.

Earlier this month, for only the second time in the last 40 years, the Baseball Writers' Association of America failed to give more than the required 75 percent of the vote to any eligible player.

Even more significant to the city's coffers?

Youth baseball leagues that are exploding in the area.

As parents encourage their children to specialize in one sport instead of play a bunch of sports, in the hopes of giving them a better chance to excel, the traveling baseball business has rapidly expanded.

And camps around Cooperstown, because of its history, have become a natural magnet.

A place called Cooperstown Dreams Park, located a few miles from Cooperstown, brings in nearly 5,000 people a week from June through August. Lou Presutti, the founder of the business, said 1,352 teams of 12-year-olds will come to Cooperstown Dreams Park this summer to play in weeklong tournaments on the park's 22 fields.

"We'll generate more than 100,000 hotel bed nights a year within a 50-mile radius of Cooperstown," Presutti said.

Another youth baseball business, Cooperstown Baseball World, located in Oneonta, about 25 miles from the Hall of Fame, expects to host up to 30 teams weekly this summer and bring in about 1,000 people per week.

"Some parents are relieved that there's no big induction this year," said Debra Sirianni, executive vice president of the business. "They might actually have a chance to get some affordable lodging this year."

Katz insists that Cooperstown is in good shape thanks to a steady parking revenue-generating business, which will contribute an extra $300,000 next year when meters are installed.

Katz said he thinks guys like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame one day, but he probably wouldn't trade that induction weekend for Bassett Healthcare, a burgeoning hospital system in the village that employs more people than the entire population of the town.

The Hall's 2013 ceremony will be held July 28. Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O'Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White were chosen to be inducted last month by the 16-member panel considering individuals from the era before integration in 1947. The Hall also will honor Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby among a dozen players who never received formal inductions because of restrictions during World War II.

Former Blue Jays announcer Tom Cheek, who died in 2005, will also be inducted as the Ford C. Frick Award winner for excellence in broadcasting.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter

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