Tag Archives: Brevard County Manatees

Sugar Land Skeeters Delay Start of Summer League as MiLB Cancels Season

A couple of weeks ago, the Sugar Land Skeeters, of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB), announced their intention to form a four-team professional baseball league at Constellation Field, beginning July 3 and running through Aug. 23.

On June 30, the team announced that they were delaying the start of the league by a week to July 10. The delay comes as cases of COVID-19 soar to new heights in Texas leading to serious questions about whether the start will be pushed back again when July 10 rolls around.

To be clear, in lieu of a miracle, it is highly unlikely that the state of COVID-19 in Texas will be better in a week. In fact, if the spike in cases that followed Memorial Day is any indication, displays of patriotism and group gatherings for the July 4th Weekend are likely to send COVID-19 cases soaring like a roman candle reaching for the heavens.

I get that the Skeeters want to have their league succeed. I want their league to succeed as well. But the outlook is not too favorable for that to happen in the current COVID-19 climate.

The Sugar Land Skeeters, of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB), recently announced their intention to form a four-team professional baseball league at Constellation Field, beginning July 3 and running through Aug. 23.
Photo R. Anderson

The same day that the Skeeters announced the seven-day season slippage, Minor League Baseball (MiLB) made the announcement many people already knew was coming, and said that there would be no MiLB season this year.

As noted many times before, MiLB is my absolute favorite form of baseball, and the fact that the season has been cancelled makes me truly sick to my stomach because of all of the employees who will get laid off, as well as knowing that many of the players and some of the teams may not be around when the 2021 season rolls around next April.

There is always high turnover in any MiLB season as some players move up, and others just quietly retire having never reached the pinnacle of playing in the Show. This year the normal ebb and flow of player movement has a new element called contraction.

In November 2019, before the world was gripped by a global pandemic, MLB announced that it wanted to eliminate around 42 minor league affiliates and keep about 120 affiliates tied to 30 MLB clubs, or roughly four MILB teams per MLB club, as a cost savings measure. The COVID-19 pandemic just sped that process along and meant that some Ballparks would not get a farewell season.

Of course, MLB said a few years back that they wanted to get rid of a few teams and placed the Expos and the Twins on the chopping block. Although the Expos left Montreal and became the Nationals, the last time I checked we still have 30 MLB franchises.

Congressional leaders are also likely to weigh in on any plan that would take baseball away from their constituents.

So, I am cautiously optimistic that MLB will back off of their plan to reduce the ranks of MiLB, but something tells me they will keep their foot on the gas.

From a big picture MLB perspective, I understand that they want to streamline the operation to have fewer players and better facilities across the board in the farm system of the future. In recent years, MLB clubs even started owning their farm teams as a means to control costs from Rookie ball to MLB. As such, the MiLB owners were already getting pushed aside in many markets.

I know that baseball is a business. One need only listen to MLB owners complain about lost revenue during the 2020 season to know where many of their heads are at. But, for many of the smaller communities that are served by MiLB teams, baseball is an extension of the community and a part of the lifeblood that pumps from generation to generation.

The last MiLB game in Orlando was played in 2003 and it left a void for baseball fans in the region. Granted, the loss of a MiLB team in Orlando is not going to have the same effect as the loss of a team in a smaller community. While they currently do not have professional baseball, Orlando has college sports at the University of Central Florida, the Orlando Magic, the Orlando Solar Bears, Orlando City, and Orlando Pride. Of course, if Pat Williams has his way Orlando will become an MLB city someday.

Contrast the sport heavy balance sheet of Orlando with say Billings, Montana. Billings, and many other cities where MiLB is played, do not have other professional sports nearby. So, a night at the Ballpark is literally the only game in town when it comes to professional sports in many markets. Besides offering entertainment for fans, the Ballparks offer employment for everything from ticket takers to ushers.

If the teams go away, the jobs will go away as well.

If MLB really does go through with their plan of reducing the ranks of MiLB as a way to save a buck, I really hope that non-affiliated baseball leagues like the ALPB and others can fill the void and keep baseball in the towns affected by the loss of their MiLB franchise.

I know there are people who will stand up and shout that independent baseball is not the same as affiliated baseball. I will not argue that point, other than to say that if I had a choice between having an Independent League team in my town, or no baseball team in my town, I am going to go with having the Independent League team every time.

The baseball fan in me wants to see the Sugar Land Skeeters summer league succeed. However, as much as I love Swatson, the reporter in me cannot justify putting fans and players at risk of catching COVID-19 just to play ball.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, the reality is that some owners may not have the resources to run an Independent baseball team without the support that went along with being affiliated with MLB.

That is why the baseball fan in me wants to see the Skeeters summer league succeed so that the players and staff don’t have to worry about losing their jobs. Of course, when I put on my reporter hat, I still cannot justify putting fans and players at risk of catching COVID-19 just to play ball.

MLB is still planning a return at the end of July for their 60-games in 66 days mini season, but many more players each day are choosing to opt out of the season.

It is a tough calculus that I really hope we are not faced with again once the COVID-19 pandemic is finally defeated thanks to either a vaccine, or effective therapeutics, that allow the world to fully reopen again.

When that day of reopening does occur, I will be one of the first people in line at the Ballpark to see the game I love played once more. Sadly, the residents of up to 42 communities may not be as lucky.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to celebrate Bobby Bonilla Day.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

Manatees Would Swim Inland Under Winter Park Proposal

Recently it was announced that the City of Winter Park, Fla., the Brevard County Manatees, and Rollins College had reached a tentative deal to bring the minor league baseball team to Winter Park, beginning with the 2016 season.

The Brevard County Manatees are a member of the Florida State League and a Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Space Coast Stadium in Brevard County, Florida may be without its two biggest tenants in 2016 if the Manatees and Nationals leave for greener pastures. Photo R. Anderson
Space Coast Stadium in Brevard County, Florida may be without its two biggest tenants in 2016 if the Manatees and Nationals leave for greener pastures.
Photo R. Anderson

Under the proposal the current Rollins College Ballpark, Alfond Stadium, would be torn down and replaced by a 2,500 seat minor league stadium which Rollins College and the Manatees would share.

Total cost of the project to be divvied up by the public and private sectors is said to be about $33 million and would include a Ballpark and parking garage.

Winter Park City Manager Randy Knight was quoted by several Orlando media outlets as saying that the fact that Orlando is the largest metro area in the nation without a professional baseball team played a role in the city’s decision to pursue a team.

After hosting Minor League Baseball since early in the 20th Century, the Orlando region was left without a Minor League Baseball team when the Double-A Southern League Orlando Rays relocated to Montgomery, Alabama and were renamed the Biscuits following the 2003 season.

The Brevard COunty Manatees, the Florida State League Class A Milwaukee Brewers farm team have a preliminary deal in place to move to Winter Park, Florida beginning in 2016. Photo R. Anderson
The Brevard COunty Manatees, the Florida State League Class A Milwaukee Brewers farm team have a preliminary deal in place to move to Winter Park, Florida beginning in 2016.
Photo R. Anderson

Without a team to call their own baseball fans in Orlando were left with hour long road trips to either Brevard County or Daytona if they wanted to catch a game.

While few people would argue on the surface that returning Minor League Baseball to the Orlando market is a good idea there are two sides to every relocation.

On the positive side of the coin the Orlando area would gain a new team and Ballpark to fill summer nights with the sounds and smells of baseball.

The negative side of the coin would be that Brevard County’s Space Coast Stadium to the east would lose their summer tenant on top of the likely loss of their Spring Training tenant the Washington Nationals.

Without a regular team calling it home Space Coast Stadium could fall into disrepair and meet the wrecking ball which is a fate that has befallen many Ballparks before it when they lost their professional tenant.

Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals Spring Training days in Space Coast Stadium may be numbered. Photo R. Anderson
Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals Spring Training days in Space Coast Stadium may be numbered.
Photo R. Anderson

While there was a movement to save historic Tinker Field despite it never being able to host baseball games again there are no such historic memories attached to the newer Space Coast Stadium.

In a perfect world there would be room for both cities to have a team but the fact remains that much like those sword wielding immortals from the Highlander, there can be only one.

Brevard County is likely to try to fight hard to keep both the Nationals and the Manatees as tenants inside Space Coast Stadium for many years to come through various incentives as several studies have shown the economic benefits of having the teams play there.

For years the Brevard County Manatees have given their fans much entertainment with each ticket. Soon fans along the Space Coast may have to travel inland to catch their team. Photo R. Anderson
For years the Brevard County Manatees have given their fans much entertainment with each ticket. Soon fans along the Space Coast may have to travel inland to catch their team.
Photo R. Anderson

However,with the current economics of baseball and the desire to treat Ballparks like disposal commodities it may prove to be a losing proposition to keep the teams in the 17-year-old Ballpark.

Under the current plan construction would be in 2015 with the team moving over a year later which would be just shy of Space Coast Stadium’s 20th Anniversary season.

Wherever the Manatees end up for the 2016 season they will likely still entertain the fans with the various aspects of Minor League Baseball that have entertained families for generations.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the urge to take part in some dizzy bat.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson