EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Going, going, gone has never had such a sad context as it does today for El Paso baseball fans.
Any hope for an El Paso Chihuahuas season or Minor League Baseball [MiLB], in general, this year is officially gone. MiLB released a statement Tuesday afternoon informing the public of the canceled season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” said MiLB President and CEO Pat O’Conner. “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.”
You can read the full statement below:
O’Conner estimated 85-90% of MiLB revenue was related to ticket money, concessions, parking and ballpark advertising. The minors drew 41.5 million fans last year for 176 teams in 15 leagues, averaging 4,044 fans per game.
Major League Baseball [MLB] teams are planning for a 60-game regular season and most of their revenue will derive from broadcast money. The season will likely begin July 23 and MLB has already told its clubs to retain expanded 60-player pools, of which 30 players can be active during the first two weeks of the season. As a result, MLB will not be providing its affiliated MiLB teams with players in 2020.
The El Paso Chihuahuas also released information on the lost season.
“This year we will certainly miss the excitement, experience, and the sense of community that Chihuahuas baseball is well known for,” said MountainStar Sports Group and Chihuahuas President Alan Ledford. “While baseball is not happening at Southwest University Park in 2020, we will continue to serve our community and engage with fans throughout the region through social media, community efforts, and the hard work of our mascot, Chico.”
Chihuahuas general manager Brad Taylor echoed the disappointment, but also committed to making 2021 worth the wait.
“It is certainly disappointing to not have a 2020 season. As an organization, we will continue moving forward serving our community while planning for an amazing 2021 season,” said MountainStar Sports Group Senior Vice President and Chihuahuas General Manager Brad Taylor. “For now, we can stay connected through our various social media platforms and modern technology. Being apart makes us appreciate how great it will feel when we can all be together again. Let us continue to support those that work daily to keep us healthy, keep us fed and keep us safe.”
The news hits the Chihuahuas hard, but several local minor leaguers are also being effected with the season canceled.
Former Americas High School standout Darrell Hernaiz is coming off his first professional season with the Baltimore Orioles. Hernaiz was in camp with the Orioles in March when the season was suspended and is hoping to get back to Florida for an extended instructional league.
“A year lost is a pretty big deal. All the at-bats, all the pitches you get to see, all the stuff you get to learn — it’s definitely a setback,” said Hernaiz. “I was the youngest guy on the Orioles at 18 so I felt like I was ready to go with everybody. Since I’m younger, I could get to the big leagues a little quicker, a little younger.”
Former New Mexico State pitcher Marcel Renteria finished last season in Double-A with the New York Mets organization. Renteria was pushing for a spot on the 40-man roster, but due to these unprecedented circumstances, it is unclear where he will land this summer.
“At some point I didn’t think there was going to be any baseball when all the negotiations were going on. The further that delayed it kind of became more obvious that the minor league side would take a hit,” said Renteria. “There’s been talks of a development league or a fall league in Florida or Arizona. Even if there’s no season it’s important for us to develop.”
The future of professional baseball has been in limbo ever since the pandemic hit. The Professional Baseball Agreement between the majors and minors expires Sept. 30, and MLB has proposed reducing the minimum affiliates from 160 to 120. According to the Associated Press, there have not been substantive talks for about six weeks.