CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The 2020 Minor League Baseball season has been canceled, ending seasons for four West Virginia franchises.
Minor League Baseball (MiLB), with 14 Major League Baseball (MLB)-affiliated minor leagues, announced late Tuesday afternoon the season was shelved as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. MLB said it would not be providing players to minor league teams this year.
David Kahn, the West Virginia Power Broadcast and Media Relations Manager told MetroNews that it’s a sobering day in Charleston and in all markets across the country.
“We are heartbroken that we can’t provide something that has been a fabric of this community for so long, this year. It’s been completely out of our control,” Kahn said.
“It is what hurts the most. If we had the opportunity to change this, we would have. There is nothing we can do when there is a global pandemic going on.”
West Virginia teams in MiLB include the Power (South Atlantic League), West Virginia Black Bears in Morgantown (New York-Penn League), Bluefield Blue Jays, and Princeton Rays (Appalachian League).
Kahn said ‘the writing has been on the wall’ for the cancellation of the 2020 season but the team remained hopeful because of the devastating impact it has on thousands of people.
“We have 15 full-time staff and 10 interns. We have a lot of gameday employees that didn’t get a chance to work this year. It affects every fan in the city of Charleston and beyond. It affects every citizen of Charleston because of the direct impact we have to the community,” he said.
“Beyond that, it affects numerous minor league players playing for and against us and had the chance to experience our city. You expand this across the nation and the numbers are astronomical.”
MiLB President & CEO Pat O’Conner released an official statement at 5 p.m. on Tuesday on the 2020 season: “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. 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.”
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) June 30, 2020
Power Owner and Managing Partner Tim Wilcox said in a statement, “We are devastated that we will not have any professional baseball games at Appalachian Power Park this year.
“Power baseball is a summer tradition for everyone in The Capital City, and we wish we could provide that to the Charleston community in 2020. However, we are unable to provide a season without players on the field. We are looking forward to welcoming fans to our downtown facility for other socially-distant events later this year.”
2020 was slated to be the West Virginia Black Bears’ sixth season of professional baseball in West Virginia. The team plays at Monongalia County Ballpark.
“Although it may not be surprising given how our world has changed over the last few months, the official news that we will not have baseball at Monongalia County Ballpark this summer is heart-breaking,” said Mike Buczkowski, President of Rich Baseball Operations.
“Not being able to share with our great fans the excitement of Black Bears baseball on those beautiful West Virginia summer nights is going to leave an awful void in our entire organization.”
— WV Black Bears (@WVBlackBears) June 30, 2020
Kahn said the Power, which had planned for its 16th season of baseball at Appalachian Power Park in 2020, want to hold events at the ballpark this summer that reach out to the community.
“We are looking at hosting socially distant events at the ballpark but we are still waiting for the COVID-19 numbers to decrease. We are still waiting for a directive from our health officials that we can continue to do more socially distant events,” he said.
As for the 2021 season things remain hazy for the Power, Bluefield Blue Jays and Princeton Rays are not. MLB has been in discussions with MiLB to cut down the minor league by roughly 40 teams. The reported plans included all three teams.
Kahn said the team remains confident there will be baseball in Charleston next summer.
“We believe that we deserve to be here,” he told MetroNews. “We deserve to be part of the minor league landscape. We have taken significant efforts to show why we deserve to be here and why we should not be on a contraction list.”
Between the contraction issues and COVID-19 he said it’s been a dismal 2020, but according to Kahn that shapes up for a great rebound next year.
“They say from the darkest depths you can rise again like a phoenix. Hopefully, this is something that ends up blossoming into something better and 2021 is greater than we could have imagined. We always stay positive and look towards the future,” he said.
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) reacted to the news on Tuesday:
While I’m extremely disappointed we won’t be hearing “Play Ball” at our minor league facilities this summer, I hope we can safely soon. @PrincetonRays, @BluefieldJays, @WVBlackBears, and @wv_power have my ongoing support to find a path for many future summers on the diamond. ⚾️ https://t.co/b46C203frY
— Shelley Moore Capito (@SenCapito) June 30, 2020