As I’m sure most of you are aware of at this point, the minor league season has been officially canceled for 2020. The official word came a couple of weeks ago now, and really everyone basically knew that this was coming for months at this point. The majors can get by without fans because most of their money comes from TV anyway. The minors, which aren’t all owned by their major-league affiliate and thus don’t all get the necessary financial support to survive without fans, just aren’t tenable in this environment.
The effects of this lost season down on the farm are going to be felt for years and have a lasting impact on the state of the sport. Even just looking at it from a 2020 lens, there is an entire year of development being taken from a massive class of prospects. We have no idea how that will affect players moving forward. Beyond that, this is likely going to lead to widespread contraction of minor-league teams around the country. That has been a goal of MLB for a while now, and this is the perfect backdrop for them to actually make that happen. That’s a disaster for player development, but even more so for fan development. Losing affiliated teams that are affordable to see in areas of the country where there aren’t major-league teams within driving distance is going to have a substantial effect on fandom for the sport for years to come.
This isn’t to say that canceling the season was the wrong call, because there simply shouldn’t be fans at most of these parks, and as I said most minor-league squads can’t function without gate revenue. It’s just to say that this is going to be the start of something very bad for the sport on multiple fronts. And beyond all of that, selfishly for me this canceled season has really started to hit me as it is totally changing my normal summer routine. I’ve started to realize just how much I’ve been missing going to Hadlock to Sea Dogs games all summer long.
I moved to Portland a few years ago, and while there were multiple reasons for it part of it was that I wanted to be close to Hadlock to be able to go to these games when I wanted. I had lived fairly close to Lowell before that, but the Spinners only play half seasons and I still had to drive 20 minutes or so to go to those games. Now, I live just a five minute walk away from going to the Sea Dogs, which has been a major part of my summer routines. I don’t get to go quite as much as I would like since I have to watch the major-league games most nights and they typically play at the same time, but to have that short walk in my back pocket on a day or night when I’m bored has been a special perk in my life that I always appreciated but appreciate even more now that it’s gone.
For anyone who doesn’t get a chance or chooses not to go to minor-league baseball games very often or ever at all, you are missing out. I love watching baseball in person, but I haven’t been to Fenway since 2015. The last time I saw a major-league game in person I saw Joe Kelly getting a start against John Danks. Major-league games are fun, but minor-league games are a totally different animal and I miss every single part of it.
I miss the affordability of going to a game, paying $15 or cheaper to sit behind home plate. I don’t have to drive, but even if you do it’s only $5 to park. I miss the craft beer selections all the way down either side of the concourse. I miss the nightly occurrence of seeing kids being introduced to the game with their mom or dad explaining the intracacies of the game to the kids all night. I miss seeing the kids participate in the on-field games in between every inning. I miss Slugger somehow always singling me out every time I end up going to a game by myself. I miss the different theme nights, even the day in which all the area middle schools get the day off to come to the game on a Thursday afternoon. Somehow I always end up at that game. I miss the perfect mixture of professional baseball and amateur fun, and the constant switching between intently watching the some of the best prospects in baseball close to the doorstep of the majors and then laughing at a six year tripping on their way around the bases.
It’s just a totally different animal in the minors, and while some things — like trash monsters wearing jean shorts — are unique to Portland, every minor-league city in America has these same qualities and their own local spins on them. Major-league baseball’s planned return is less than two weeks away, and while I’m on the fence about the viability and necessity of its return, I’m excited to watch MLB again. But it’s not the same, and at this point in my life it’s not even my favorite form of baseball. I drive by Hadlock for one reason or another almost every day, and lately I’ve been realizing more and more just how much I miss walking in, grabbing a beer, and taking in the bizarre, fun, cheap experience that is the minors.