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Atlantic League teams drop plans for limited 2020 regional play

Long Island DucksAfter the independent Atlantic League scrapped a full 2020 season and freed to implement solutions tailored to their current governmental guidelines, an effort to launch regional play has been scrapped by the Long Island Ducks and the High Point Rockers.

The Rockers front office, in conjunction with the City of High Point and the Guilford County Division of Public Health, are actively working on a plan to re-open the ballpark in efforts to create additional community events at the newly renamed Truist Point for the remainder of the year, according to a team press release.

“The entire Rockers organization has worked tirelessly to provide a season of professional baseball at Truist Point this summer,” said team President Pete Fisch. “After reviewing the options and the risks, the right decision was to not play this year. It is disappointing but our concerns for player, fan, and staff safety outweigh the potential benefits.”

A key factor in the team’s decision was the travel quarantine mandate issued last week by the states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The mandate requires a 14-day quarantine for any travelers from states with a high level of coronavirus cases, including North Carolina. The Rockers would be scheduled to travel to New York to play the Long Island Ducks throughout an abbreviated season. The Ducks front office was seeking permission to open at 25 percent capacity — a number previously envisioned and proposed — in Long Island’s Phase 4 of reopening. The team will immediately turn its attention to booking Bethpage Ballpark for various uses in the coming months, including camps, clinics, corporate events and field rentals.

“We tried everything in our power to start the season despite the pandemic and all the challenges it presented,” said Ducks CEO and Founder Frank Boulton. “We presented a safety plan detailing the protocols we would follow to provide the safest possible way for Long Islanders to enjoy a night out. Without fans, we cannot move forward in 2020. At this time, we have not gained approval from New York State to open our gates to fans. We are very disappointed that this is the result, but we look forward to seeing everyone at the ballpark again in 2021.”

“The quarantine requirement in New York put our schedule in jeopardy and would restrict our ability to play the Long Island club,” Fisch added. “There is no way around that.”

Over the last few months, the Rockers have been working with the Guilford County Division of Health to create an effective re-opening plan that will allow Truist Point to open to the community for future events. That process will continue in hopes of hosting community-minded events for the City of High Point and Piedmont Triad region.

The Ducks had been working with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, presenting the “COVID-19 Readiness Plan: A Guide to Operating Bethpage Ballpark” for review and approval several weeks ago. The County Executive praised the plan in his June 5 Coronavirus update, calling it “incredibly thorough” with significant safety protocols in place in an effort to keep people safe. Bellone further noted Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desire and support to get sports back on the field in Phase 4 (scheduled for July 8 on Long Island). While Phase 4 had previously contemplated a limit of 25 percent of capacity for spectator sports, Governor Cuomo announced last Wednesday that would no longer be the case, and professional sports would only be permitted to open without fans in New York.

“This is obviously not the outcome we worked towards,” said Ducks President/GM Michael Pfaff. “We worked very hard on presenting something that was well thought out, using common sense and abiding by the highest governmental and medical standards available during the process. Ultimately, it was not enough to get the season started in a timely fashion. To our partners that assisted in this process, we would like to express our heartfelt gratitude. To all fans and marketing partners of the Ducks, we thank you for your support.”

The Sugar Land Skeeters will run their own four-team independent baseball league at Constellation Field for 2020, beginning July 10 and running for 56 games through Aug. 23.

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