With so much uncertainty for an MLB season, it’s almost certain that Minor League Baseball will not be played this year.
Hundreds of stadiums remain empty and hundreds of minor league players were released by their Major League affiliates the past two weeks. As the MLB-PA and MLB discuss dramatic changes to its proposed season, affiliated baseball is becoming less attainable by the day.
The Covid-19 pandemic has put all sports on hold. While the major United States sports have plans to return in the near future, Minor League Baseball’s postponed season puts the livelihoods of players, coaches, staff members and many others at stake.
One of those MiLB organizations resides in the heart of downtown Reno. The Reno Aces, Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, are one of numerous teams forced to essentially cancel its 2020 season and focus on next year.
“We try to do our best with the information we’re given,” Aces President Eric Edelstein said. “The uncertainty of it makes it all really helpless. We just have to do our very best to prepare, it’s not our decision.”
The Aces were scheduled to have Opening Day against the Sacramento River Cats on April 9 at Greater Nevada Field. It would kick-off a 140-game regular season schedule as Reno would battle for first place in the Pacific Coast League.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the Biggest Little City, Edelstein hoped the Aces’ season would return at some point. That scenario became less of a reality by the passing month.
“I expected it to be a temporary shutdown. I thought it was going to be a 4-6 week period,” Edelstein said. “This disease made me realize it’s going to have a long lasting impact on our world, let alone our organization.”
If and when the major sports return to action, all contests are expected to be played without fans. Those leagues can make up for some of the revenue loss of no fans with television contracts, radio broadcasts and streaming services to make games viewable for the public.
Minor League Baseball cannot survive without fan attendance. As Edelstein pointed out in a Tahoe Onstage feature last season, ticket sales are the trunk of the tree. Many minor league teams don’t have viewable outlets for the public, so the season is built around enticing promotions to get families and others coming to the ballpark.
It is one of the many reasons that makes Minor League Baseball so enjoyable for fans. It provides professional baseball at an affordable cost so anyone can watch a game. Without fans, a 2020 campaign isn’t economically possible.
Despite the challenges ahead, Edelstein still has high hopes for a 2021 Minor League Baseball season.
“There should still be a tremendous amount of optimism,” he said. “The world will look different, but that’s when the affordable entertainment of Minor League Baseball takes center stage. It gives us an escape from the challenges of life, and it will be that way again.”
It may not be on the field, but the Reno Aces are striving to make an impact in the community. The organization has provided numerous ways to help out during these troubled times.
Each week, the Aces host a “Community Highlight” to recognize local health care workers in hospitals and other care facilities. They also teamed up with Feeding America and the Food Bank of Northern Nevada to donate meals to people in need.
“This situation helped us develop a voice,” Edelstein said. “It shows that our organizations are trying their best to serve the community in this tough time. … Even if it’s not sharing scores or highlights, we can use our voice to highlight what’s important.”
The Reno Aces still have plenty of work to prepare for a 2021 season. Playing conditions at Greater Nevada Field still need to be maintained for baseball games and Reno 1868 FC soccer contests.
Edelstein and other front office members are in contact with season ticket holders, group event organizers and corporate sponsors to help provide future insight on new promotions and entertainment.
The Reno Aces are putting the pieces together for a strong return in 2021.
“In the event that we don’t play this season, we’re gonna be more ready than ever to turn the page and have a great season next year.” Edelstein said.
— Isaiah Burrows