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After Sugar Land exits, decision deadline looms for Atlantic League's 2020 baseball season

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports
  • The Sugar Land Skeeters have formed their own league in Texas.
  • The two teams in Pennsylvania can only play with 250 fans.
  • The Atlantic League is meeting multiple times per week to find a solution.
York Revolution president Eric Menzer

If Atlantic League officials finally have the chance to put together a revised 2020 schedule, they will have one less team to worry about.

The Sugar Land Skeeters, the lone Atlantic League team located in Texas, recently announced it will form a new four-team league that intends to play 56 total games from July 3 to Aug. 23. Texas currently allows 50% capacity for a stadium’s venue, unlike the other states (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland and New York) where the league has teams. 

The Pennsylvania teams in the Atlantic League — the York Revolution and the Lancaster Barnstormers — would be limited to 250 spectators in the green phase of Gov. Wolf’s COVID-19 reopening plan, which currently makes an Atlantic League season uncertain at best because of the financial cost of a season without the revenue that is generated from fans in attendance.

York Revolution president Eric Menzer said that if the league decides to go ahead with a season, the team will need to get a plan accepted by the state that would allow the Pennsylvania teams to play with more than 250 people in attendance.

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“Having a plan, in our case, would really entail needing to have more than 250 spectators,” Menzer said in a phone interview on Monday. “Economically, it doesn’t work to play baseball with 250 spectators. Now that they have provided that guidance, we will need to make a decision as to what our next step is.”

Menzer added that he does have a number in mind that is less than the 5,200-seat capacity of PeoplesBank Park that would be profitable, but he declined to name that number, citing the proprietary value of that number.

Rick White

White's statement: After the announcement by Sugar Land, Atlantic League president Rick White released a statement that the league still intends to play its season. 

“The Atlantic League continues to seek options to conduct its 2020 Championship Season. Each club is collaborating with state and local officials to develop plans that protect the safety of fans, employees and uniformed personnel, including during interstate travel from club to club,” White said.

“Wednesday’s announcement by the Sugar Land Skeeters demonstrates the ongoing efforts to provide baseball in each (Atlantic League) community. The State of Texas currently permits gatherings up to fifty percent of a sports venue’s capacity, unlike the mandates in other ALPB states.

"Nevertheless, the other (Atlantic League) clubs continue to make every effort to play the 2020 Championship Season while constantly monitoring COVID-19 developments in their states and counties. We acknowledge the limited time in which to make decisions regarding a 2020 season. Additional official announcements will be forthcoming from the Atlantic League office.”

Without Sugar Land, the Atlantic League has seven available teams for a possible 2020 season, which includes the all-travel Road Warriors team.

Time getting tight: While Menzer said there isn’t a set date when the league will need to make a decision, at this time, he admitted the deadline to decide whether a season will happen is not far away. The Revs president added that the league is meeting multiple times per week in the hopes that they can find a plan that allows fans to safely enjoy baseball in the five states where the league now has teams.

Revs' patio parties will continue at PeoplesBank Park each weekend through end of June

“It is very, very hard when you’re in the professional baseball business to concede that you can’t play baseball,” Menzer said. “So, we are trying to imagine every way possible to bring professional baseball to our communities this year, in some form, and acknowledge that the time to do that as a league is running short. But it’s going to take a lot before we give up.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.