It’s July 1st. There are reasons to be excited today. It’s the day many Major Leaguers are reporting for Summer Camp. It’s opening night for the Coastal Plain League’s Savannah Bananas, and I’ve signed up for Bananas Insiders to be able to watch their games live. So, why is my mood subdued and dampened? Yesterday, the expected became official. There will not be Minor League Baseball in 2020.
Minor League Baseball means so much to me that it’s difficult to explain with black words on a white backdrop. I’ll give it a go anyways. In 2016, I was at the lowest point of my life. I had, in many ways, given up. I was floating through life emotionless. I had no need for ambition or motivation. It was a dark place to be, but I was there, and I was allowing the darkness to take me in. In August of that year, a trip to Durham Bulls Athletic Park with my family sparked a change. That moment, the sun, the sights and sounds of the ballpark, started my ascension. Since that day, the ballpark has been my church. Every Spring marks the return to my favorite 5 months of the year. My excursions to Minor League ballparks represent some of my happiest memories.
In the Summer of 2018, I started attending Johnson City Cardinals games on a regular basis because I was dating someone who lived in Johnson City. In September of that year, I moved in with her. For the first time, I had a home team! I had grown up in the heart of the Appalachian League but had never lived in the same town as a team. I have to admit, my roadtrips to attend games were great, but it was really nice to be able to drive across town to go to the ballpark. As you can imagine, the news that most of the teams in the Appalachian League were potentially going away hit me pretty hard, much like yesterday’s announcement that COVID-19 has claimed the 2020 MiLB season did.
The news was certainly not unexpected. I think all of us in and around Minor League Baseball saw the writing on the wall. I guess, in a way, it’s nice to finally know, beyond a shadow of a doubt. That doesn’t take away the hurt. Many people working in baseball have already been furloughed or let go altogether. I can’t imagine the uncertainty felt by many others after yesterday’s announcement. Mix in the increasing COVID-19 numbers and the general unrest amidst Black Lives Matter protests, and these are truly dark days. These are typically the times where, at least for me, baseball is an escape. The ballpark, the green grass, the brown dirt, a hot dog, and a cold beer eliminate the idea of “strangers.” The quirky, creative team identities and wacky promotions bring us together like nothing else can. While the health and safety of everyone in this country is of the utmost importance, we could all use a little baseball right now.
So, how do we feel the void? I don’t know that there’s a good answer, really. I’ve already been struggling with the inability to celebrate my favorite time of the year. No ballpark trips. No new caps to add to the wall in my office, signifying another stamp on my Minor League passport. I’ll fill some of the void with baseball on TV. I’m grateful for the chance to watch the Bananas and my beloved Dodgers, but that still can’t replace the feeling of walking off the concourse and out into the great outdoors. I won’t feel the cool breeze or the warm sun on my face sitting on my couch watching baseball on TV. I can drink beer and eat a hot dog, but the taste won’t be the same. Not even close.
Over the last 24 hours or so, I’ve been encouraged to see everyone associated with Minor League Baseball create a support system for one another. It’s been uplifting to read the connections so many people have to MiLB. It means so much to so many. I’ve seen it dubbed “the land of opportunity” for those seeking a career in sports. It’s a rare place as a first job for teenagers and college graduates as well as a final job for retirees. For the players on the field, it represents the promise of realizing a childhood dream. Those players are just steps away from Major League Baseball. If that isn’t enough to grab you and pull you in close, Minor League Baseball is also the ultimate fan and family friendly experience at a cost affordable for anyone. All that energy combines on gameday to create something so special and unique that words can’t convey it properly. You have to feel it on your own to become a believer.
In conclusion, I am not sure how I’ll fill the void left by Minor League Baseball. I’m sure I’ll continue to watch any baseball available to me on streaming platforms. Here’s what I do know for sure: opening day 2021 will be nothing short of magical. I’ve already started plotting where I will be to enjoy that wonderful day when the clouds will part, the fog will rise, and the darkness will return to light. Minor League Baseball is made up of the most positive, resilient individuals I have encountered in my 34 years of life. I look forward to sitting down with a hot dog and a beer to experience the game and once again appreciate what those peoples’ exhaustive work creates. What a joyous, magnificent day that will be.
In the meantime, I will continue to write about the inspiring people that are a part of the game. Be sure to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to stay up to date on new articles. Thanks for reading!