BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) – Require Bernie out to the ball game?

Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator, and Democratic presidential candidate are aggressively opposing a Major League Baseball plan to cut 42 small league teams across the nation after 2020. One of the targeted is that the Vermont Lake Monsters, the Single-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics in his hometown, Burlington.

I am defending nongolf clubs at far-flung places more fervently than anyone in the Democratic administrative area allows Sanders to possibly win over a mostly untapped 2020 constituency: baseball lovers.

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Sanders temporarily took batting practice Sunday within an indoor turf area as agents from three small-town Iowa teams appeared on the Quad City River Bandits, the Clinton LumberKings, and also the Burlington Bees, the local club in this town on the Mississippi River. In August, Sanders played with reporters on the nation’s corn field-ringed” Field of Dreams,” the record of this Hollywood hit of the same name. And he has exploited a former Harvard second baseman, Faiz Shakir, to conduct his campaign.

Sanders shed his signature match coat to take swings at a sweater over a dress shirt. Having a staff member slow-pitching, the senator dribbled a couple of grounders into his left, then lifted a ball in the air in precisely the same way, before joking that he was aiming another grounder off his bat at CNN reporter that should have dived to stop it. After about six strikes, he dropped the bat and said: “OK, that’s it.”

“For all the significant league scouts, if I do not make it to the presidency, I am available,” Sanders joked.

Taking the bead demonstrated physical endurance for a 78-year-old who’d had a heart attack while also allowing Sanders to press a more significant political point about wealthy owners placing profits before the national pastime. But also, it shows a softer side of somebody most known to supporters and detractors similar to becoming a democratic socialist and backing progressive policy proposals such as”Medicare for All.”

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“The men who have the groups are billionaires,” Sanders said told The Associated Press interview earlier this week, adding that baseball” is not an institution that is hurting financially. And you will see that by, only in the last few weeks, seeing major league teams signing star baseball players to get as much (as) $324 million.”

That refers to this New York Yankees lately signing free-agent pitcher Gerrit Cole into a documented 9-year, $324 million deal.

MLB is negotiating a new agreement with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the governing body of the minors. The first regeneration proposal primarily would impact lower-level teams in short-season leagues. Sanders met last month with Commissioner Rob Manfred to decry the strategy, and the senator delivered him a letter Saturday, asserting that baseball”must be considered more than just the bottom line.”

“Baseball isn’t just a different company,” Sanders said during the meeting. “There’s a reason the president of the United States throws out the first pitch of the season, why baseball is thought to be a national pastime.”

After the first Sanders-Manfred assembly, MLB issued a statement saying it”understands that we now have a responsibility to local communities to ensure that public money spent on little league stadiums is made prudently and for the benefit of taxpayers.”

But it added: “MLB additionally needs to make sure that minor league players have safe playing facilities acceptable to the growth of professional baseball players, are not subjected to unreasonable travel requirements, are given compensation and working conditions appropriate for elite athletes, and also have a realistic opportunity of making it to the significant leagues.”

Some minor league players have filed a national class-action suit charging that lots of players make less than $7,500 per year, violating minimum wage laws.

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Over a hundred members of Congress from both parties have signed another letter into Manfred opposing closed down small league teams. Thus far, though, Sanders is among the Democratic presidential hopefuls loudly fighting the idea.

“He is the only one I hear talking about it,” said J.D. Scholten, who pitched professionally in Canada and for Iowa’s separate Sioux City Explorers. Scholten challenged longtime Republican Rep. Steve King in 2018 and is attempting again to unseat him.

“I think it sort of fits into his overall message of, now, a lot of how our lives are being shaped by wealthy people that are dictating a lot of these things at the top, and also the folks in the base are being left behind,” said Scholten, who played basketball this past week with the other White House hopeful, author Andrew Yang.

Sanders said before Sunday’s batting practice that Congress could intervene if baseball goes through with its contraction plan. He noted the sport’s antitrust exemption and the public dollars a few teams have obtained to build stadiums and mentioned lucrative television contracts that he said are”occasionally designed in unusual ways.”

“I think there is a lot Congress can do to protect baseball for ordinary Americans, and I think that’s what you’re going to see being done in a bipartisan matter,” Sanders explained. “I expect it does not have to come to that.”

Scholten stated he informs crowds at town halls while campaigning he’ll answer questions about anything, including baseball.

“My baseball history gets talked about a lot. I am kind of amazed. I have not played in 10 years, was a paralegal for a decade, and no one talks about that,” Scholten joked.

Sanders’ baseball ties predate his 2020 campaign. He visited with the Los Angeles Dodgers during spring training in 2018 and, because he had been recovering at home after his Oct. 1 heart attack, Sanders’ effort released a video of the offender batting balls around his backyard.

The senator grew up enjoying the Brooklyn Dodgers until they moved to Los Angeles when he was 16. He now roots for the Boston Red Sox, like a bunch of New Englanders.

While running for the very first elected office he won, mayor of Burlington in 1981, Sanders says that he believes he recalls campaigning on landing a minor league team. He states, “We worked hard” to achieve just that. – Obtaining a Cincinnati Reds affiliate to town three decades after.

“Everybody found it amusing because the name was the Vermont Reds,” Sanders, noting his joyful leftist series, chuckled.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, played baseball at Harvard, not Yale.