June 30 (UPI) — While Major League Baseball prepares to start the 2020 season next month, baseball’s minor leagues canceled its seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the minor league governing body, made the expected announcement Tuesday. The season’s fate was essentially sealed when MLB informed minor league clubs that it would not be providing players to them this season because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
It is the first time in the history of Minor League Baseball — which was founded in 1901 and currently consists of 160 teams — that a season has been scrapped.
“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,” MiLB president and CEO Pat O’Conner said in a statement.
“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 season was set to begin April 9 and run through the end of August. Without any fan attendance at games — a significant portion of MiLB revenue each year — minor league teams were forced to reduce their workforces and apply for financial aid through the federal Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act.
During a news conference Tuesday, O’Conner said the financial impact of the coronavirus could last until 2023.
“As serious as the threat from Major League Baseball was,” O’Conner said, “this threat from the coronavirus, it transcends any list that anybody wants to make with respect to the possibility of teams not being around in the future.”
MLB’s 60-game season will start at the end of July. The league has already directed clubs to retain expanded 60-player pools, with 30 players being active during the first two weeks of the 2020 campaign.