Prospect League cancels 2020 season

Local Sports

ELKVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — Todd Miller, owner and general manager of the Springfield Sliders, said he wasn’t excited to hear their own Prospect League had cancelled their 2020 season, but he understands why.

He added while they’re not allowed to do much in Illinois, games in Missouri were still approved to take place.

“It makes it difficult, but you know, at the end of the day, if everyone feels that’s what’s best for the community, and not be outside and be at entertainment events, I get it,” Miller said. “I don’t want to be the reason that anybody gets sick. I certainly don’t want to be the reason a patron, a player, staff or anybody gets sick.

“We certainly appreciate the ruling, and we understand and are sympathetic. But at the end of the day, I think there’s the other people that want to get out and have live entertainment. For all of them, we wanted to have a season, and bring our entertainment and baseball, different events, fireworks, and different things for the community.

“For the players, they’re the ones who are suffering the most. They missed most of their college season, now they’ve missed summer ball. The (Major League Baseball) draft got shortened to a five-round instead of a full draft. There’s a lot of implications for them. Sure, a lot of them are now going to have to go back to college for an extra year. Now, that impacts incoming freshman playing.”

He said they hope to bring them back out to Springfield next summer. Since they’ve been released from their current contract, Miller added some players were looking to play with other leagues that still plan on having their season this year.

The Prospect League announced Friday they made the “heartbreaking” decision to cancel their 2020 season, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting government regulations. That determination was made based on guidelines for safety, protections, and limits on public gatherings and travel across the five states that are home to their league.

“The Prospect League is not alone in the baseball world in the difficult decision that we had to make,” said Prospect League Commissioner Dennis Bastien. “As we hung on to hope for a shortened season, the reality of our responsibility to the teams of people who make our season possible could not be met in the manner we felt necessary. It is a heartbreaking time for team owners as they feel the weight of this loss for their players, their fans and their communities. This was an exceptionally difficult decision made in an unprecedented time.”

Other central Illinois teams that would have played for the league this summer include the Danville Dans and the Normal CornBelters.

In a Friday press release, Jeanie Cooke, who serves as general manager and managing partner for the Dans, said their decision was made with reluctance. She added league directors “held many agonizing conference calls” before deciding to cancel.

The release added two other teams, located in Lafayette and DuPage, couldn’t play this season because their stadiums were not able to be used.

“Despite the desire to play baseball this summer, this is not unique to the Prospect League,” the release stated. “There are 13 other summer collegiate baseball leagues that have already cancelled their seasons because of coronavirus restrictions.”

“We were definitely looking forward to our 33rd season this year,” Cooke said. “But we excitedly await playing in 2021, when we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the opening of Danville Stadium.”

Although the CornBelters won’t play in the Prospect League this summer, they still intend to play ball.

“We are saddened by the news from the Prospect League office this morning. No decision like this is made quickly and without careful consideration,” CornBelters President of Operations Matt Stembridge said in a press release Friday. “We are committed to providing our fans, this community, and baseball fans in the region in the opportunity to enjoy our nation’s pastime this summer at the Corn Crib. We look forward to sharing that vision next week.”

The team will host 30 games at the Corn Crib for a season running from July 1 to August 9, and tickets will go on sale at a later date. Those who have already purchased CornBelter tickets for a game this summer will be contacted once their new schedule has been released.

“Due to capacity limits, only a limited number of tickets will be made available,” the release added.

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