If everything had fallen into place, the Frontier League would be celebrating Opening Weekend. There would be Friday night fireworks, endless cheers for the home team, mascots running amuck throughout the stadium, seventh inning stretches, and children eagerly running around the bases in the hopes of touching home plate first after the final out of the game.
If everything had fallen into place.
Instead, the Frontier League patiently sits back and waits for a sign and the signal to start the 2020 season in the middle of a global pandemic while teams celebrate Opening Weekend virtually through social media platforms.
“We are currently in a delay for the 2020 season due to the gathering limitations related to COVID-19. While our desire is to play as much of the 2020 season as possible, we do not have enough clarity from our different states on when we will be able to safely and legally open.” Steve Tahsler, the Deputy Commissioner of the Frontier League said via email with Dugout Dish.
The league currently is made up for 14 teams between the Can-Am and Midwestern Divisions. The team locations range from Quebec, Canada to Florence, Kentucky after an off-season merger where the Can-Am League joined the Frontier League last fall.
While Major League and Minor League Baseball might look different in the coming seasons due to COVID-19, Tahlser and the league does not anticipate the outlook of future seasons to change. “We are not anticipating any change to future seasons, though we realize that we are in a largely unprecedented time.”
With the merger between the two independent leagues last fall, the age limit changed throughout the league and gave many veteran players another opportunity to play one more season – while this was a blessing to many baseball players who want to go out on their own terms, the unemployment rate and uncertainty of jobs could impact whether or not many players are able to return for a 2020 or even 2021 season.
“It is hard to tell what impact the economic issues will have on all industries and how it relates to a player wishing to continue to play as opposed to finding a more traditional job.” Tahsler said, explaining that the league has been focusing on the safety and government regulations and have not had much discussion on players or playing regulations for the 2021 season.
“We are going to wait and see how much of a 2020 season can be played before we examine any adjustments to the 2021 playing regulations.” This would include age restrictions and any rule changes heading into next season.
With each team being independently owned, there is always a possibility of ownership experiencing difficulty coming back from a shorter season or no season at all. Unlike MLB, independent league owners are often hit harder by economic struggles. As of right now, Tahsler believes each team will be able to play in 2021 without issue. “We speak with each of our clubs multiple times each week. No club has indicated any issue with playing in 2021.”
During the last Opening Weekend, I remember sitting at Rent One Park, which is home to the Southern Illinois Miners. It did not feel like a Major League game, it felt like an old school baseball game – one where fans became family, where children were able to sit and talk with the baseball players that they look up to, and where the sound of a bat connecting to the ball echoed throughout the stadium.
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