NEW YORK — It has long been expected, but today it was made official: There will be no Minor League Baseball in 2020.
MiLB released a statement Tuesday confirming that Major League Baseball would not be providing any of its minor league affiliates with players this year, as MLB itself will instead give each team a "taxi squad" of 30-34 players during the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season. The hundreds of minor league teams across the United States and Canada will instead begin preparing for next year.
MiLB President and CEO Pat O'Conner released the following statement:
"These are unprecedented times for our country and our organization as this is the first time in our history that we've had a summer without Minor League Baseball played. While this is a sad say for many, this announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment."
Northeast Ohio is home to three minor league teams, all affiliated with the Indians: the Double-A Akron Rubberducks, the Class A Lake County Captains in Eastlake, and the Short-Season A Mahoning Valley Scrappers in Niles. Canal Park in Akron still plans to host several "socially-distant" events throughout the ensuing months, with Rubberducks general manager Jim Pfander saying:
"The news that we will not have RubberDucks baseball at Canal Park this summer is devastating. However, because of the immense value we place on the safety of our fans, players, staff and partners, we fully support the decision to cancel the season. We are looking forward to the many socially-distanced and safe events that we planned as a contingency to continue to bring Affordable Family Fun to our community while we wait for RubberDucks baseball in 2021. Akron has always been resilient in the face of adversity, and we look forward to opening day next April."
It is unknown how these latest developments could effect MLB's pre-pandemic proposal to disband dozens of minor league affiliates across the country, with the Scrappers apparently on the chopping block. Commissioner Rob Manfred has received widespread criticism from players and politicians regarding the plan, but countered by threatening to perhaps eliminate the whole system altogether.
One other professional baseball team occupies this region: the Lake Erie Crushers of the independent Frontier League. Their entire season has been suspended, although league officials left open the possibility of teams like the Crushers holding other baseball activities at their respective parks.