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Staff photo / Chattanooga Lookouts player Alfredo Rodriguez signs a fan's jersey at a home game against the Jackson Generals this past July at AT&T Field. The Lookouts and the Generals are two of the minor league clubs in danger of losing their affiliations with the majors.

Chattanooga Lookouts president Rich Mozingo was floored to learn Saturday that Major League Baseball had a proposal to contract the Class AA team he operates at the end of the 2020 season.

In the days that have followed, Mozingo has been barraged with calls, emails and texts asking the same thing: "What can I do to help save the Lookouts?"

His advice? To stay calm, at least for now.

"Right now, I've got nothing other than to tell them to support Lookouts baseball," Mozingo said Tuesday afternoon. "We had an unbelievable year in 2019, and that goes a long, long way to making our case. We're going to learn more in the next week. We're going to learn more in the next three weeks.

"If it becomes a letter-writing campaign or a phone call to Major League Baseball or to your congressman or senator or whatever it may be, we'll put those things out. Right now, just keep supporting Lookouts baseball."

The Southern League named Chattanooga its top organization for the 2019 season and tabbed Mozingo as its top executive, but that didn't keep Major League Baseball from making the Lookouts one of the teams they seek to ax in reducing the number of affiliated minor league clubs from 160 to 120. Chattanooga was among four Double-A teams on the proposed chopping block, joining fellow Southern League member Jackson (Tennessee), as well as Binghamton (New York) and Erie (Pennsylvania) of the Eastern League.

some text Staff photo by Tim Barber / Chattanooga Lookouts president Rich Mozingo is simply asking fans to support the team right now as it faces an uncertain future.

Mozingo and Lookouts co-owner Jason Freier are scheduled to attend next month's winter meetings in San Diego, where this bombshell is certain to be discussed.

"This is a much more global issue than the Chattanooga Lookouts," Mozingo said. "There is a delegation that has been set forth by Minor League Baseball to negotiate with Major League Baseball, and I know they have meetings planned before and after the winter meetings. We have to be business as usual. I don't want to say the Chattanooga Lookouts are a pawn in this game, but we're a part of this thing, and we're at the mercy of Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball.

"We've put the right people in place to have the right discussions with the right people on the Major League Baseball side, and we've got to hope that they do the best they can do. What we know is that the 2020 season is going to happen, the Cincinnati Reds are going to be our affiliate and will send us 25 guys, so we're going to talk about the things that will affect the 2020 season and how we can help the Reds make this the best season they've ever had here."

Mozingo realizes Chattanooga is on the MLB list because of AT&T Field, which has weathered 20 Lookouts seasons, but he said Tuesday that AT&T "meets every criteria that Major League Baseball has set forth for Double-A franchises." He added that MLB plans to change the rules and asked, "How long do we have to get in compliance?"

Even if the Lookouts get removed from the contracted list, Mozingo points out the facility will have to be addressed "in order to keep professional baseball here." Mozingo is assured of a 2020 season, and he believes affiliated baseball will be in Chattanooga in 2021 in beyond.

"I definitely do," he said. "Look at where we stand geographically. Look at our market. My confidence level is at 90-plus percent."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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