SPOKANE, Wash. — Minor League Baseball officially announced Tuesday afternoon that all of their teams' seasons have been canceled.
This is due to the fact that Major League Baseball is not providing the MiLB any players, and has instead instituted taxi squads to replace injured and under performing players this year.
"One of the things we want to get across is that today is a sad day," said Indians senior VP Otto Klein on a call with the media on Tuesday.
Thankfully for the Indians, they aren’t as sad as other teams around minor league baseball, who may not make it to 2021.
"I think we can say very confidently that we’re in a position where we can say we’re going to figure out a way to weather this storm. We will be around for 2021 and beyond," said Indians president Chris Duff.
Minor League Baseball being canceled this season seemed like an inevitability once the novel coronavirus hit, but the official decision didn't come down until Tuesday due to several weeks of failed negotiation talks at the Major League level. The Spokane Indians say this is the first time their club has not played a season since 1957.
Just because they'll be around next season, doesn't mean that this situation isn’t difficult on the franchise. The team says they’ve already had to furlough nine of their employees, which is about 40% of their full time staff.
"We’re in a butts in seats business. We need fans to be able to operate. Our revenue is driven by gate receipts and it’s tough not having a season," said Klein.
"We’re no different than a lot of small businesses and a lot of industries that are going through similar things, but I do feel like this may impact us even more," continued Duff. "We’re honestly and realistically looking at over 12 months of no revenue. We haven’t really received any revenue since September of the 2019 baseball season. Realistically, we’re not going to receive any revenue until the 2021 baseball season starts. That’s a long time to go operate with no revenue whatsoever."
The Spokane Indians have tried to create revenue streams during this time. They've been offering dinners for fans as part of their "Ballpark Dinners-To-Go" program. More "Dinner-To-Go" programs are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
They also have recently instituted their "Inland Cafe" program to bring fans to Avista Stadium for lunch. The first lunch was on June 22nd and they will have lunches this week until July 2nd. The Inland Cafe is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. More announcements on dates the Inland Cafe will be open are expected to come in the coming weeks.
The Spokane Indians' extended off-season is set to bring about a ton of change to the team. Many people expect them to not be affiliated with the Texas Rangers after this season due to reorganization at the minor league level.
"There are days where it feels like maybe the Rangers will be our affiliate. Maybe we won’t be unaffiliated with the Rangers, but right now, there’s so much changing and it’s constantly moving," said Duff.
They also are expected to play a longer season that would start in mid-April and end in September. In total, Minor League Baseball is expected to cut about 40 teams heading into the 2021 season. The Indians right now seem like they will not be one of the teams cut next season.
No matter what happens, the team says that they've had a great 18 year relationship with the Rangers.
"Regardless of what happens, they’ve been great partners. We like long term situations like that so we’ve been very fortunate to be with them for the duration that we’ve been with them," said Klein.