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WHAT HAPPENS IF THE RENEGADES’ SEASON IS CANCELED?

Well, No Minor League Baseball For First Time In 27 Years – And Millions In Lost Revenue

By Jack Weinberger
Special to HVSR

As the days and weeks fly by, it is becoming more likely that baseball will be added to the list of what COVID-19 has taken away from this year.

The Hudson Valley Renegades were slated to play their first game of the 2020 New York-Penn League season last week, and their first home game at Dutchess Stadium on Wednesday, July 24, against the Vermont Lake Monsters. Those went by the wayside when the NY-P League announced it was indefinitely postponing the season.

Now, with coronavirus cases spiking in a number of states that are navigating the different phases of the reopening process, one thing is becoming more and more painfully evident: For the first time in a generation, we might not have Renegades baseball, leading to the obvious question of what happens if the entire season is canceled?

“At this time right now, I don’t believe any of our clubs could play ball, because of the restrictions and the guidelines that are out there,” said Ben Hayes, President of the New York-Penn League.  “There are eight different states we operate in, from Vermont, down to Maryland, out to Ohio. We have 14 teams spread across that geographic area, and you can’t play with just a couple of teams.”

The Renegades, a member of the New York-Penn League’s McNamara Division, are affiliated with the Tampa Bay Rays. Outside of the minor league baseball world, Major League Baseball is in an indefinite delay as well; both the virus and a stall in negotiations with the owners and the player’s union have put serious question marks on the 2020 Major League Baseball campaign.

Asked about a potential minor league season being played even without a Major League season, Renegades President Steve Gliner said, “I don’t see that being the case, no.”

 

Still, Gliner sounded an optimistic note.

“I think once those negotiations are finalized, and everything is put into place at the Major League level, a lot of those protocols that they agree on for Major League Baseball will be the same for minor league baseball and facilities as well,” he said.

But at the moment, Hudson Valley doesn’t even have a roster.

The 2020 MLB Draft just took place less than two weeks ago. Tampa Bay made six selections in this year’s five-round draft, which was shortened from the typical 40 rounds in past seasons.

“As far as the Rays assigning players here, everything is on hold,” said Gliner. “Everything with regard to our player personnel is handled by the Tampa Bay Rays.”

Having no minor league season in Dutchess County doesn’t just affect baseball coaches, players, and fans, but it has a severe negative impact on the local economy as well. As each “game day” goes by without a game being played, revenue is lost.

“You’re talking about $40 million worth of economic activity over the last 10 years,” said Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. “So the loss of thousands of fans coming to the stadium every other night for three months is the loss of a great economic stimulus that will have a profound impact.”

Not to mention the players’ loss of salary – though the Rays have been good about providing payment to their minor leaguers – as well as countless jobs, including summer positions, at the Stadium.

“The biggest burden is, by this time, they would have staffed up by the hundreds, and those are all individuals who are not being employed at the moment,” said Molinaro.

New York State has not yet lifted orders which would allow Dutchess Stadium to open, and until that order is lifted, no types of events are allowed to be held at the ballpark.

“If there is no minor league season, there are other things we will be doing here at the facility once the phases allow us to do that,” said Gliner. “We’re going to be announcing some camps here shortly, some other baseball-related things that we’ll be able to do when we’re able to do that.”

 

Hayes said he’s still holding out hope for a season, however truncated it might be.

“Oh sure, I think if everybody was cleared to operate, and we were able to operate, I think that would be something we could do,” said Hayes. “All of our clubs have plans in place if given the green light, so we’re ready, and prepared, but we’re being very cautious.”

Hayes also noted that there may be a potential schedule change if the minor league season gets going.

“We were potentially looking at changing the schedule so that kids don’t have such a long time on the bus together, you know, reduce the travel so they aren’t stuck on a bus for a long period of time,” added Hayes.

If the minor leagues can’t get going this season, a handful of minor league teams may have seen their final days in existence. Major League executives plan to get rid of approximately 40 teams in the minor league system.

“That’s an ongoing negotiation,” said Gliner. “I actually know people involved in the markets that would be affected, based on the list that was released last November. There are some other options moving forward where those markets can continue to have professional baseball, and my hope is that all the teams involved can continue to have baseball in their communities.”

The Renegades were not on the list of teams to be contracted.

 

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