The MLBPA and owners are continuing to struggle to strike a deal to bring back baseball for the 2020 season after the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, affiliated minor league baseball has been canceled for the season, though short-season leagues are still twisting in the wind.
Therefore, an even more fervent need for fans to see America’s National past time played has been created.
But one league, the independent American Association of Professional Baseball, is doing its best to fill that gaping hole. The American Association announced on Friday that the league will kick off play on July 3 with a 60-game season.
But why go to all the trouble? Well, purely for the love of baseball, and return some sense of normalcy in an otherwise turbulent time, to say the least.
“We are very happy to be able to return professional baseball to our fans, albeit in a different fashion than usual,” American Association Commissioner Joshua Schaub said on AmericanAssociationbaseball.com. “We look forward to opening up our season on July 3 for a summer of high-level professional baseball and bringing America’s Pastime back to the fans.”
This sentiment became so pervasive in the league’s approach that Baseballism, a lifestyle brand devoted to all things baseball and its rich history as America’s pastime, has been brought aboard to promote the season with a retail offering commemorating the spirit of the effort via a “For Love of the Game” logo.
In order to play a meaningful campaign, the American Association is implementing a hub city model. The St. Paul Saints will utilize Sioux Falls Stadium as their home ballpark until capacity restrictions for outdoor events have relaxed, allowing the Saints to return to CHS Field.
The American Association season will run from July 3-September 10, with a Championship Series, consisting of the top two teams from the regular season, to follow in a best-of-five format.
The league will consist of six teams based in three separate “hubs.” The Saints will be grouped with the Sioux Falls Canaries at Sioux Falls Stadium. The Winnipeg Goldeyes are with the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks at Newman Outdoor Field, home of the RedHawks. The Chicago Dogs are paired with the Milwaukee Milkmen at Ballpark Commons, home of the Milkmen.
Each team and ballpark will have in place, and enforce, COVID Readiness Plans, approved by local Health Departments and Government Officials. In order to allow for safe social distancing while enjoying a live, professional baseball game ballparks will have limited capacity.
Each club will play 42 of their 60 games in their hub to limit travel, with 30 of those 42 being home contests while the remaining 12 as the road team against the other team in their hub. The schedule, which will be released on Monday, June 15, will allow any of the three road squads to return home for games if local governmental restrictions allow for games with fans in attendance.
“Our sincere hope, and frankly, our plan is to play baseball in St. Paul sooner rather than later,” Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Derek Sharrer said in a press release. “There were several contingencies discussed, but we realized moving forward with this system was both best for the league and for our ability to accomplish our primary goal of entertaining fans at CHS Field this summer. We appreciate Sioux Falls, Fargo, and Milwaukee opening their ballparks for us, Winnipeg and Chicago.”
Six teams will not operate this summer due to the impact of COVID-19 in their local communities. The Cleburne Railroaders, Gary SouthShore RailCats, Kansas City T-Bones, Lincoln Saltdogs, Sioux City Explorers, and Texas AirHogs will suspend baseball operations for the remainder of the summer and return to full operations for the 2021 season.
A truncated Spring Training will begin on June 25, with Opening Day scheduled for July 3. The American Association will experiment with new roster rules in 2020, highlighted by the elimination of rookie, LS, and veteran minimums and maximums on rosters, and a draft of players from non-participating clubs to allow the best possible talent available to play this season.
For more information on the American Association of Professional baseball, visit www.americanassociationbaseball.com
— Jerry Del Priore