Another baseball victim of the Covid-19 pandemic. The California Collegiate League (CCL) announced today they would shutter operations for a 2020 season after previously delaying play until July 1st.
The league’s ten teams voted unanimously to cancel the 2020 season after all but four teams had lost hope of playing this summer with fields not available until at least August.
“I feel really bad,” said Arroyo Seco General Manager Aaron Milam who has been leading the CCL office during the 2020 season. “This is the truth we worked really hard. We met together for the last 11 weeks. We ran through all kinds of scenarios and spent an exorbitant amount of time on this.”
The league had organized a contingency plan to play under stringent health and safety guidelines but with some California counties appearing far away from allowing organized sports the dwindling hope of baseball in the Golden State became reality in the last week.
“To run under that operational health protocol was unrealistic,” Milam said. “You lose the baseball aspect of the game; it becomes a chore.”
Three of the teams that have not cancelled their season the Santa Barbara Foresters, Healdsburg Prune Packers, and Lincoln Potters all vouched through social media to play a modified schedule operating independently this summer. The Orange County Riptide are “actively exploring available options of playing independently.” If the Riptide play it may be under a different name.
“There’s a lot of moving parts but as of today we are taking the step to play independent just this year,” Healdsburg Prune Packers president Richard Bugarske said. “We feel it is healthy psychologically to bring some sports into the town.”
The Packers are planning to play a schedule of 30 games from June 25th through August 2nd without fans in Healdsburg. The schedule, posted on the team’s website, primarily consists of the Potters and teams from the lower-level Bay Area Collegiate League.
Bugarske acknowledged their schedule could easily change and potentially be pushed back based on a variety of question marks primarily with government health regulations.
Placer and Santa Barbara Counties home of the Potters and Foresters respectively are both expected to enter phase three of California’s reopening plan allowing organized sports later this month. The Prune Packer’s Sonoma County enters the second half of phase two this weekend.
The National Alliance of College Summer Baseball a coalition of summer collegiate baseball leagues run by Major League Baseball that includes the CCL cautioned teams in May to not run as “rouge organizations” this summer if their league cancels the season.
“It’s a very tough call,” Bugarske said. “I don’t think anyone is trying to be cavalier about it, we realize that it’s valuable to be as close to normal as possible within the guidelines of safety.”
The CCL office was unable to comment on the three CCL teams and possibly the Riptide continuing their summer independently.
“We put everything in place as if it’s going to happen,” Bugarske said. “We are cognizant that it might not, but we are going to be fully prepared.”
One element of baseball in California that will very likely not happen this summer is fans at the ballpark. Reportedly, the Lincoln Potters have stressed that they will likely be unable to operate without an audience.
“We will have more information soon regarding an independent 2020 summer season,” the Lincoln Potters official Facebook account said.
The Packers will continue to use host families to house their players and plan to group players together when away from the ballpark. Social distancing and health precautions will be in effect as well at all games.
“We want it to be a safe experience,” Bugarske said. “Talking to people in the city they want to see baseball back as a first step and with the right safety precautions that is our goal.”
The Lincoln Potters plan to host the “West Coast Classic” a tournament with multiple independent teams August 5th-9th to end the collegiate summer ball season in California.
“I hope that by having an independent year we can play a little ball and learn,” Bugarske said. “There is no guarantee we will not have to go through this again next year. I feel we can maneuver around the virus safely and intelligently.”
All six CCL teams that have canceled their season have already or will reimburse player fees in full.
With the CCL and also the West Coast League’s cancellation today, only one league, the Northwoods, that was in CSBN 2019 top 10 leagues has not cancelled their 2020 season.
“We can’t keep going right now it’s not feasible, it’s not smart,” Milam said. “But it’s pretty heartbreaking that this is how we had to end it.”