New Brunswick Senior Baseball League cancels 2020 season
5-team league featuring province's best amateur players couldn't make COVID-19 rules work
COVID-19 has put an end to any hopes of a 2020 season for the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League.
The league is made up of many of the province's best amateur players and has been in operation for the better part of 90 years.
It helped launch the careers of several New Brunswick major-league players, including slugger Matt Stairs, who was named the league's rookie of the year in 1984.
Right now, it includes five teams: Saint John, Fredericton, Moncton, Chatham and Charlottetown, with most players 21 and older.
But, with the 2020 season already nearly two weeks past its official start, the league made the tough decision this week to pull the plug.
Terre Hunter, the general manager of the Saint John Alpines, said initially league officials were hoping for a July 1 start to a shortened 2020 season.
But, he said that conversation changed once Baseball NB released its guidelines for the COVID-19 response.
Hunter said there were two restrictions that made going ahead with a season difficult.
The first was the restriction on how many people can travel in a vehicle together. With carpooling limited to two, and a bus out of the question, Hunter said travel would have been tough.
The second was even a bigger issue for some teams, Hunter said.
With only 50 people allowed at the game, once you take into account players, coaches, staff and umpires, there was almost no room left for fans.
"A couple of our teams are pretty reliant on gate admissions," Hunter said.
As well, no fans means no reason for sponsors to buy advertising space at the ballpark.
Both the Fredericton and Moncton squads felt they couldn't continue under those rules.
"And you can't really have a three-team league," Hunter said."Especially when one is on the Island (Prince Edward Island) and you don't know if you can get across the bridge."
The New Brunswick Junior Baseball League, featuring players from 18 to 20, also cancelled its season.
But, Hunter said the Saint John team may be able to play locally in an intermediate league.
In the meantime, in an effort to cut into Saint John's growing deficit, the city announced fields would have to be maintained by volunteers this summer.
While Hunter said it had little impact on the decision to cancel, he said it may have a silver lining for his league.
Hunter said initial talks this year suggested the city was open to partnerships to keep the fields operating.
With the threat of rental fees increasing dramatically in the coming years, Hunter is hopeful the city might accept lower fees in return for volunteer maintenance.
"After all, it appears they don't want to be in the recreation business," he said.
Hunter said it will be strange without the Senior Alpines on the diamond this year.
"I guess I'll find out what else there is to do in the summer."