SALISBURY – Delmarva Shorebirds’ general manager told officials this week planning is underway to host several community events at the Arthur W. Perdue Stadium this year despite the cancellation of the 2020 Minor League season.
On Tuesday, Delmarva Shorebirds General Manager Chris Bitters met with the Wicomico County Council to discuss the cancellation of the 2020 Minor League baseball season.
“We planned for all scenarios,” Bitters said this week, “and the worst result came with the announcement we would not have a Minor League season.”
Last week, Major League Baseball (MLB) informed Minor League Baseball (MiLB) teams that it would not be providing its affiliates with players for the 2020 season. As a result, the 25th anniversary season of the Delmarva Shorebirds – the Class-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles – has been shelved.
“If you are a baseball fan, and you are following along, they are having their own challenges just getting the Major League season off and running …,” Bitters said. “Minor League Baseball is a multi-level entity of eight levels, 16 leagues, 160 cities and 43 states. An effort to try to send players to 43 states, 160 communities, while testing all the things they are trying to pull off at the Major League level, I’m assuming is the directive on why they were unable to provide us players. Also, under the current directives of the governor, even if they did send us players we can’t have fans.”
As Shorebirds staff worked remotely in the earlier months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bitters said the stadium was used to host drive-thru testing events. With the cancellation of the season, he said staff will now work to provide other activities at the facility.
In addition to hosting youth sporting events, the Shorebirds organization also has plans to offer a drive-in fireworks show and socially distanced movie nights on the field, among other things.
“Not all of it is firmed up yet, but we are positive we can create some good community activities and make it to the backside,” he said, “and hopefully next April we are playing ball and back in the stadium if that’s allowed.”
Bitters also noted that 2020 partners, season ticket members, groups, silver sluggers and individual ticket holders will be contacted about their accounts with the Delmarva Shorebirds.
“It’s tough but we will be fine,” he said. “I don’t want any pity … We have good ownership and management and we’ll get through it.”
When asked what financial impact the organization could expect for the 2020 season, Bitters declined to provide specific numbers.
“It’s going to be significant, like really big,” he said. “We have 16 full-time staff members we are trying to keep employed.”
Bitters noted that the Shorebirds have already made some layoffs and furloughs. But he said the more events the organization has, the more working opportunities it can provide to its employees.
“In reality, the more events we have, the more hours I can give staff to work,” he said.
Councilman Bill McCain asked Bitters if there had been any news regarding negotiations between MLB and MiLB. A Professional Baseball Agreement between the two organizations is set to expire this year, and MLB has put forward a proposal to eliminate 42 Minor League teams as part of its renewal.
“Fortunately, we are not affected by that,” he said. “Have you heard any rumblings that that may change …?”
Bitters replied that he has yet to hear any news of the negotiations.
“Nothing has been finalized with that …,” Bitters replied. “For the last several months, Major League Baseball’s focus has been getting their season up and running, and there hasn’t been a whole lot of conversation about where that’s been heading.”