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Signs of return to normalcy in MiLB, summer-collegiate worlds

With MiLB teams hosting alternate training site scrimmages and summer-collegiate teams announcing a return to action, we’re seeing small signs of a return to normalcy in 2021.

Yes, we are still in the era of severe social distancing, mask mandates and limited capacities, and full normalcy at sporting events probably won’t be seen across the country until 2022. But professional baseball returned to Minor League Baseball teams this week in the form of scrimmages between teams of Triple-A players assigned by MLB teams to alternate sites.

For instance, the Louisville Bats (Triple-A East) are hosting a five-game scrimmage series between parent Cincinnati Reds and visiting Kansas City Royals players assigned to the Northwest Arkansas Naturals alternate training site. Top prospect Sonny Gray started the opener for the Reds Tuesday night before a sellout crowd.

The Bats are hosting 11 scrimmages during the month of April, all being run according to spring-training rules: games can be cut short, for instance. Cleveland and Pittsburgh alternate-site teams are slated to visit Louisville Slugger Field.

Similarly, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Triple-A East) are hosting fans at three New York Yankees/Philadelphia Phillies scrimmages on April 17, April 25 and May 1 at Coca-Cola Park. The Yankees are playing out of nearby PNC Field, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The team has also been hosting scrimmages sans fans beginning this week.

“This will be an outstanding opportunity for fans to take in a few baseball games prior to the IronPigs regular season while watching the Phillies’ top prospects at Coca-Cola Park,” said IronPigs President and General Manager Kurt Landes in a press statement. “We are thankful to Major League Baseball and the Philadelphia Phillies for allowing us to host fans at these games.  Moreover, I’m excited to see fans at a live baseball game at Coca-Cola Park for the first time since August of 2019.”

On the summer-collegiate front, good news from our hometown Madison Mallards (Northwoods League). who will open at Warner Park on March 31 after a 20-month hiatus. Dane County had implemented rather draconian outdoor-gathering restrictions in 2020, but as of yesterday the capacity restrictions and mask mandates were lifted, though the Mallards and other entities must allow for six feet of social distancing.

“Part of summer in Madison is enjoying the old ballgame at the Duck Pond,” said Madison Mallards President Vern Stenman via press release. “It has been a tough year for us and our community and we can’t wait to bring everyone back together around America’s pastime at the ballgame this summer once again.”

Photo of Slugger Field courtesy Louisville Bats.

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