One of the more interesting professional sports narratives during the global pandemic's uncertainty has been in baseball. The MLB juggled around ideas, attempted to compromise with players, and jostled scheduling and salary proposals for weeks. Eventually, Major League Baseball came to an agreement with their players, and baseball in the age of Covid-19 will return. At the end of July, the boys of summer will be back on their home fields.
But not all the boys of summer.
Facing scheduling and pandemic-related concerns, the boys of summer who play Minor League Baseball won't be able to come back to Vegas for the 2020 season. It is an absolute blow to prospects who count on playing with affiliated Minor League teams not only in hopes to receive "the call up" to the Majors but also to continue to play professionally during the traditional season.
This reality struck the Las Vegas Aviators on June 30. This Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A's is now subject to the shutdown, and their players will have to succumb to this unique, pandemic-plagued season that has rocked the rest of the sports world.
The Pacific Coast League President, Branch B. Rickey, stated that this cancellation was the first of its kind in the 118-year history of the Pacific Coast League. And in a separate statement from the Las Vegas Aviators, President and COO Don Logan remarked, "The Fact the Aviators didn't have the opportunity to follow up on a great first season at Las Vegas Ballpark is very sad for everyone involved with the organization but most importantly for our fans. Obviously, the global pandemic has affected everyone in the world and the health and safety of all citizens is way more important than anything."
Yet, are there any bright spots for players or fans of the Aviators? As far as the fans, the Aviators brass are being as accommodating as possible. They announced that fans holding season tickets will be provided options to receive credit for the 2021 season tickets plus 10% bonus in stadium dollars, or they could receive a refund minus 15% to hold seats for the 2021 season, or a full refund. The credits or refunds are also extended, in different ways, to groups and single ticket buyers (according to the team's website).
As for the players, they have continued to receive a weekly stipend from the A's. They will also be able to build on a fantastic previous season that culminated in a trip to the playoffs. They will largely miss the development that the Minors has been established for. Yet, some Aviators players more recently found their way on the 40-man A's roster including Paul Blackburn, Daniel Gossett, Daulton Jeffries, Grant Holmes, and James Kaprielian.
As players, coaches, fans, and other spectators wait in their respective wings – yes, Aviators pun intended –time will only tell what the final roster will look like, how the A's will fair this shortened season, and what baseball without fans in the stands equals up to. For a sport already in disfavor with some sports fans, the MLB will have to find ways to keep people's interest in the "great American past time."
But taking away the small town, community-supported teams, like the Las Vegas Aviators for a season, is a tough way to start. And yet, in this unprecedented moment, it is likely the safest strategy moving forward for the fans.