The loss of regular-season games is not the only challenge facing Minor League Baseball teams, as non-gameday events are also scrapped in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, the start of the 2020 MiLB season is on an indefinite delay and figures to not get underway for months. MLB announced on Monday that it will follow a new recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to cancel gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, meaning that the launch of the 2020 season could occur around Memorial Day at the earliest. For full-season MiLB teams that were to have begun play next month, the prospect of a shortened season is becoming an increasingly likely reality, resulting in economic uncertainty.
While the delay to the season and likely loss of games poses a challenge for MiLB operators, so too does the loss of non-gameday events that have been scrapped in response to the evolving circumstances surrounding coronavirus. One such example includes the loss of college baseball games and tournaments that were scheduled for this spring, something that teams many teams, including the Lansing Lugnuts (Low A; Midwest League), were counting on to fill out the non-MiLB slate at their ballparks. More from the Lansing State Journal:
“You always think of things that could possibly throw a wrench in your plans and usually those are weather related or something like that,” [Lugnuts general manager Tyler] Parsons said. “We constantly live in a turbulent work atmosphere just because of weather when you have an outdoor stadium. Something like this, I never thought of in a million years. We’ll get through it, We’ll come out stronger and we have no doubt that this community will support us even more once we get through this.”
This was slated to be a big year for the Lugnuts, who are celebrating their 25th season playing in downtown Lansing. The delayed start to the Major League and Minor League Baseball schedules due to the coronavirus has impacted some of those on-field plans and other special events scheduled for Cooley Law School Stadium.
A Michigan State-Michigan baseball game scheduled for next month is off. The GLIAC baseball tournament scheduled for the stadium in May is canceled.
“We’re making adjustments as we go and, as an organization, we’re making those adjustments every 24 or 48 hours as things change by the hour and by the minute and trying to put ourselves in the best position possible to offer a safe and exciting environment here when baseball does come back,” Parsons said. “It’s understanding right now that safety and this coronavirus overall is bigger and more important than any baseball games or events that are going on here. We want to make sure we’re following protocols and everything can be safe out there for people.”
Although baseball games are obviously affected by guidelines to cancel gatherings of at least 50 or more people, there are plenty of non-baseball events–such as wedding receptions–that could no longer be held at ballparks under that criteria. This means that teams like the Quad Cities River Bandits (Low A; Midwest League), who have suspended all events at Modern Woodmen Park, face challenges beyond the loss of MiLB and other baseball events. More from the Quad-City Times:
The River Bandits are following guidelines established by the Center for Disease Control to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, closing Modern Woodmen Park to all gatherings of 50 people or more until the guidelines change.
[River Bandits owner Dave] Heller, whose Midwest League club is coming off of a flood-impacted 2019 season, calls the event cancellations and the delay in the start of the season “heartbreaking.”
Beyond baseball games, the impact includes everything from business meetings and wedding receptions to board meetings and club meetings.
“The decisions that have been made have been made with great reluctance. It’s been sad, sad, heartbreaking. Baseball is something that brings us together as a community and to be told that we have to stay away from each other, keep our distance, that’s a hard thing,” Heller said.
As long as the pandemic continues to effect planned events with large crowds, MiLB teams not only have to prepare for the loss of games, but also outside events that generate revenue and fill out significant portions of their calendars.
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