NILES — "Play Ball!" won't be heard this summer at Eastwood Field.
As expected, the coronavirus pandemic has shut down Major League Baseball's minor leagues. That means there won't be any Mahoning Valley Scrappers games this summer. And maybe none ever again.
Tuesday afternoon, Minor League Baseball (MiLB) was informed that the major leagues would not provide players for its affiliated teams for the 2020 season. The decision shutdowns all levels of baseball below the major leagues.
MiLB, which began as the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, was founded on Sept. 5, 1901.
"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," said Pat O'Conner, MiLB president and CEO in a news release. "While this is a sad day 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."
The MiLB cancellation comes as no surprise. Last week, Major League Baseball (MLB) reached an agreement with its players for a 60-game season to begin in late July.
Because of the pandemic, no fans will be in the ballparks but teams will travel to opponents' ballparks for road games. (When the NBA returns, all games will be played at the ESPN Complex in Orlando.)
Each MLB club can invite 60 players to a July training camp and only those players will be eligible this summer. That means each team's best minor leaguers will be on stand-by as replacements in case they are needed because of the pandemic or injuries.
“While we are incredibly disappointed that we are unable to play the 2020 season, we can now focus on planning an exciting season of Scrappers baseball at Eastwood Field in 2021,” said Jordan Taylor, vice president of HWS Baseball and Scrappers General Manager in a news release.
Refund information will be posted on the Scrappers' website within the week.
As for 2021, the Scrappers have no contract with the Cleveland Indians and it's possible they won't get another after 21 seasons as the Indians Class A short-season affiliate in the New York-Penn League.
Last fall, MLB proposed a cost-cutting measure that could eliminate as many as 42 short-season teams including the Scrappers and just about every one of the NYPL teams. The short-season rookie leagues (usually mid-June until early September) were in MLB’s sights because most players whose careers begin at that level never ascend to elite status.
Should the Indians drop the Scrappers, it's possible the franchise could continue by fielding an independent team with players not associated with MLB teams.
As a MLB affiliate, the Indians provide the players, coaches and training staff to the Scrappers, covering their expenses. With MLB teams losing all ticket revenue this summer, it's easy to imagine they will be looking for ways to cut costs.