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National Pro Fastpitch cancels season; other leagues make 2020 plans

National Pro FastpitchThe 2020 National Pro Fastpitch season has been canceled due to coronavirus pandemic concerns, while other indy and summer-collegiate leagues announce new 2020 game plans.

The league cited COVID-19 as the sole factor in decision making.

“It is not without careful consideration and much thought, that we make the decision to forego the 2020 season,” said NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf. “We have always prioritized the health and safety of our players and the global pandemic of COVID-19 places us in a position we are unable to overcome. It is simply not feasible for the league to manage at this time.”

Obstacles specifically cited by the league include an inability to access testing as well as an uncertainty on the cost of that testing; access and allowance inside potential venues; lack of adequate infrastructure required to travel from market to market, live, practice, and compete each day of the season in various markets while maintaining the assurance of player safety and good health.

The Aussie Peppers (made up of Australian players) and the Canadian Wild (made up of Canadian Olympic players) had already announced they would not be participating in the 2020 National Pro Fastpitch season.

In other COVID-19 baseball news, the Midwest Collegiate League has announced plans for a July 1 start to the 2020 summer season.

Teams are expected to begin holding practices in mid-June in order to give players the opportunity to return to baseball shape in time for Opening Day. The plan to begin practices in mid-June and games in early July is in line with Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s plan to reopen the state in five stages. The July 1 start date is subject to change based on updates to state and federal guidelines.

The summer-collegiate league is exploring the option of moving games involving Illinois-based franchises to Northwest Indiana venues if the league’s Illinois-based venues have not reopened by the targeted July 1 start date.

All of the league’s teams play in Indiana or Illinois and all road trips are completed in one day without overnight hotel stays, eliminating some of the travel-related COVID-19 concerns that other leagues are facing. In addition, the league recruits primarily local players from the Chicagoland area, eliminating the need for host families or player housing and allowing players to live at home while competing in collegiate summer baseball. The league is working with state and local governments to develop safety procedures for players, coaches, fans and team personnel upon the return to action.

“I would like to thank our players, coaches, fans and generous sponsors for their patience during these unprecedented times,” MCL Commissioner Don Popravak said. “We believe the latest plan released by the State of Indiana will allow us to safely play baseball games while staying within state guidelines beginning on July 1. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and react appropriately to any new developments. We are excited to provide our players with the opportunity to take the field and continue their baseball growth in a manner that keeps the safety of all involved at the forefront of our decision making.”

The independent United Shores Professional Baseball League is now looking at a June 10 season launch at Jimmy John’s Field, replacing the original May 8 opening date. Only a third of the ballpark would be used for seating as social distancing would be implemented. Fans would be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before entering the ballpark, while players would be tested weekly for the coronavirus.

“We’re very confident we can safely hold an event, a game at our ballpark with all the social distancing, all of the bells and whistles that the CDC and others are suggesting,” USPBL owner and CEO Andy Appleby told the Detroit News. “We would like to be not only the first league that might come back (in Metro Detroit), but the first league that is allowed to have fans albeit with full social distancing.”

With daily news about the spread of the coronavirus impacting the sports-business and facilities industries, it’s more important than ever to stay up with the latest news in the venues industry. That’s why we launched a Venues Digest newsletter focusing on coronavirus information across the ballparks, arenas, stadiums, theater and performing-arts worlds. For now it will appear daily, and for now it will be free of charge to industry professionals. Sign up here.

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