Hurricane Ian is poised to disrupt the baseball industry in coming days, potentially affecting a critical MLB series and forcing Florida operations to send home players and coaches from fall workouts.
Hurricane Ian is expected to each landfall early Wednesday, making its way northward through Florida. On the MLB side, the greatest Hurricane Ian impact could be felt not in Florida, but in Georgia, where the Atlanta Braves are set to host the New York Mets at Truist Park this coming weekend in a series with playoff implications. The Friday-Sunday series could see two or all three games wiped out by a storm set to peak in Atlanta on Saturday, with rain and heavy winds potentially appearing Friday. As of now MLB is looking at perhaps switching Friday’s game to a matinee to avoid what’s expected to be the worst weather of the day in the evening, shifting a game to Sunday as part of a doubleheader, or scheduling a postponed game (or two) to Thursday, Oct. 6, if there are still playoff implications. Right now a half game separates the pair, so it’s very possible whoever wins the series will end up divisional champion, with home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Not on the agenda as of now: moving the series to a neutral site, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
In the past, MLB has relocated multiple series when circumstances have called for it. In 2017, following Hurricane Harvey, the Astros and Rangers played at the Tampa Bay Rays’ stadium. In 2008, Hurricane Ike forced the Astros to play two games against the Cubs in Milwaukee instead of Houston.
At this time of year, MLB will show urgency to play the games safely and to the fullest extent possible.
If the series were to be moved to another site, it would be a bummer for the Braves, who would lose three important home games.
Several teams have already shut down instructional camps and sent both players and coaches home. At Pirate City, for example, the Pittsburgh Pirates have shut things down as a precautionary measure. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Ian is projected to hit the west coast of Florida late Wednesday afternoon. With recorded winds up to 125 mph as it struck Cuba Tuesday, the hurricane is also expected to strengthen to a Category 4 storm.
Pirate City, which features 75 dorm-style rooms along with a half-dozen fields of various sizes and extensive training space, has been evacuated and closed, minor league equipment manager Pat Hagerty said.
Groundskeepers took down windscreens, cleaned up batting cages, moved cars from tree lines and pulled trash cans indoors, cognizant of anything that might double as a projectile. Fewer than 20 players had been staying at the facility, although the last of that group flew home on Tuesday, Mr. Hagerty said.
The same is true in Lakeland, where coaches and players were sent home from TigerTown from Detroit’s instructional league, per the Detroit News:
Managers, coaches, and minor-league staffers — about 40 people — have also largely been sent home.
Some staff will remain, said Ryan Garko, Tigers’ vice president of player development.
“We’ve prepared the complex as best we can for the storm,” Garko said Tuesday. “Our local Lakeland employees are taking care of their homes and making preparations to ride out the storm.”