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Chattanooga Lookouts President Rich Mozingo has attended baseball's winter meetings for a quarter century.

But he's never experienced one like this past week in San Diego.

Representatives from Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball held discussions while nestled against the Pacific Ocean about MLB's recent proposal to contract 42 minor league teams because of aging facilities and excessive travel concerns.

The Lookouts, who have played the past 20 seasons at AT&T Field in downtown Chattanooga, were among the 42 teams listed in the initial report that was revealed last month.

"It was the main conversation out there," Mozingo said after flying back to Chattanooga. "On the minor league side, this is a huge, huge deal. And on the major league side, it's all about (New York Yankees pitcher) Gerrit Cole and (Los Angeles Angels third baseman) Anthony Rendon. On the minor league side, you're talking about 25% of the teams going away.

"Absolutely, it dominated the conversation out there."

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Rich Mozingo / Staff photo by Tim Barber

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and deputy commissioner Dan Halem were unified in stating their case that Minor League Baseball has been unwilling to address concerns about facility upgrades. Minor League Baseball commissioner Pat O'Conner stressed that contraction would affect all 160 teams and not just the proposed 42 on the chopping block.

The exact 42 teams being targeted for contraction are suddenly in question after Halem told the Boston Globe on Wednesday that last month's leaked list "is out of date and thus wrong." He added that there would not be any revised list made public "because of its fluidity and the negotiation's intensity."

Chattanooga, which has competed in the Class AA Southern League since 1976 and was the league's organization of the year in 2019, is among four Cincinnati Reds affiliates that appeared on the contraction list, joining Daytona of the high Single-A Florida State League, as well as the Billings (Montana) Mustangs of the Rookie-level Pioneer League and the Greeneville (Tennessee) Reds of the Rookie-level Appalachian League.

The Greeneville Reds play their home games at Tusculum University, while Billings competes at Dehler Park, which opened in 2008 at a cost of nearly $14 million. MLB is looking to eliminate the entire Pioneer League.

"This is the main story at the winter meetings," Mustangs managing partner Dave Heller told KTVQ-TV in Billings earlier this week. "Everything else is secondary. This is a pall that just hangs over the hotel. Minor League Baseball team owners are united like nothing I've ever seen before against this proposal."

Major league and minor league officials must hammer out a new professional baseball agreement by September 2020, but Mozingo is hopeful the Lookouts not only will have a future in Chattanooga beyond the 2020 season but that such security would be known before April.

Though this issue is still in the early stages in many aspects, it won't seem so early in a few weeks when pitchers and catchers start reporting.

"We've just got to let this process work itself out," Mozingo said. "There is ongoing dialogue between Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball. We're both sitting at the same table, and what we're looking for now is a little guidance. Everybody at that table is being pretty tight-lipped, but what we're looking for is a little guidance on whether there is a time frame in place.

"Is there going to be criteria in place? Is there a final list? We just haven't heard a lot of details since the list came out, to be very honest about it, so we don't know what that next step is. I would assume people at that table have an idea, but that has not been made public to us."

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

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