What Could A 2020 PBL Season Look Like?
Posted June 14, 2020
There is excitement in the air as some leagues across the province begin to have discussions around returning to the field for a 2020 season, including the Powerline Baseball League. What that will look like and when that will begin are still being discussed, but there does to be hope for some sort of modified season that runs in the summer months.
The Foothills Major Baseball Association in Calgary, which is a combination of Senior AA and Senior AAA baseball, announced their intention to start a 2020 season on Canada Day, July 1. The FMBA operates all of their teams (which totalled 11 in 2019) out of a single field in Calgary at Glen Hansen Field which is operated by the league. The FMBA is targeting a twelve game season and would have to see the league split up into cohorts of teams, with a max number of 50 people in a cohort, to play each throughout the season. So if there were three teams in a cohort, they would expect to play each other a total of six times each.
In Edmonton the Alberta West Central Baseball Association (the area’s 30+/Twilight League) has seen teams begin to plan for a July/August season by reaching out to players to gauge availability and interest. The league operated with ten teams in 2019 mostly in Edmonton/Sherwood Park along with Westlock, Spruce Grove and Bon Accord. It was also expected that Camrose was entering a team for the 2020 season either as the Battle River Bisons or as an older version of the Camrose Axemen.
It is already clear that the number of baseball players at all levels, from 5U Blast Ball all the way up to senior men’s baseball, will be drastically taking a hit for any 2020 season. Minor baseball associations will have lower numbers with families typically not playing baseball in July and August due to the spring season nature of younger levels of House League/Community League baseball. Many ballplayers in the senior men’s baseball world also see their season end around August Long weekend or in some cases sooner, meaning a full month of baseball in August would be very different for them. It is anyone’s guess as to what the percentage of returning players would be for a July/August baseball season, but perhaps 50% - 75% would be a fair range to hope for currently.
If the Powerline Baseball League was to get the league going for 2020, a similar set up would be needed to ensure that provincial guidelines are met. It was expected that a total of seven teams would be returning to the PBL prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning that the league would need to divide into two divisions to meet the 50 person cohort maximum. A couple examples of how those divisions might be created:
Divisions Based On Location:
- Armena Royals, Camrose Axemen, Camrose Roadrunners, Rosalind Athletics
- Edmonton Expos, Tofield Braves, Vegreville Blue Jays
Divisions Based on Standings:
- (1) Vegreville Blue Jays, (3) Armena Royals, (5) Tofield Braves, (7) Camrose Axemen
- (2) Rosalind Athletics, (4) Edmonton Expos, (6) Camrose Roadrunners
If the league planned on playing ten games over the months of July and August, as some sort of playoffs and cross over between the two divisions doesn’t yet seem feasible with provincial guidelines, the team division would play each opponent twice with an extra game against the team that was closest to the them in the 2019 standings. The three team division would play each other five times. It might seem like a lot to play the same team 4-5 times in a season, which means the PBL could see as few as six games for each team spread out over the summer months.
Roster size will need to be cut by the league from the current twenty one maximum down to something closer to 12-15 for a maximum depending on how many teams are playing. The whole goal is to stay under the 50 person cohort maximum, which will also likely have to include umpires as well. Teams and players would have to make tough decisions around players who may only be able to make it out to 50% of the games or who are planning on taking large vacation time during the summer.
The PBL would also need to institute guidelines for their teams to follow during the season to meet requirements around social distancing, sanitizing equipment and pre/post game activities. Here are some things that the PBL, and other baseball leagues and associations, would have to put in place to meet some of the provincial guidelines;
- Teams could be encouraged to not carpool to/from games and would not be able to hang around after the game.
- Teams could be asked to have appropriate disinfectant and sanitizing equipment available to them so that baseball could get wiped every couple of innings or to sanitize any touched surfaces like gate locks, gates, door handles, etc once equipment was put away.
- Teams could be spaced out along the foul territory fences (out of the field of play) and not allowed to occupy the tight confines of a dugout to ensure that social distancing occurred.
- Each team could be asked to supply their own baseballs for their pitcher and for their defence. For example, if Armena and Rosalind are playing and Rosalind is in the field, they would be asked to provide the baseballs for their pitcher and retrieve all foul balls hit by Armena. Umpires would not have access to the baseballs so any ball out of play would need to be thrown in from the dugout. When the teams would switch and Armena takes the field, the Rosalind baseballs are taken off the field, disinfected and Armena would not be responsible to supply the baseballs.
- There would be no sharing of baseball bats, equipment such as catchers equipment or batting helmets. Each player would be expected to have their own.
- Teams could also be asked to track contacts of their players, which appears to be another way of taking attendance and submitting that tracking into the league of Baseball Alberta. The tracking document would include asking each player who attends a practice or game about symptoms, travel and household health. Currently Baseball Alberta has a document to be filled out for each and every practice session in which the coach/OFM is expected to document and store this information.
- Currently, in a Return To Train model, Baseball Alberta requires teams to provide verbal wellness checks on the players who are attending a session and each player/family is required to fill out an Informed Consent and Assumption of Risk Assessment, prior to their first session.
- Baseball Alberta also currently requires that the local baseball association/league provide signage, either through the Baseball Alberta signage that is available or appropriate signage through their local municipality to be displayed at the fields regarding Covid-19.
If the PBL and teams are interested in moving forward with an attempt to compete in a 2020 season, it will be very different than what has been seen in the past. The requirements and guidelines in place will need to be followed by players, teams and fans to avoid any potential punishment from local or provincial authorities and will take some time to get used to, especially in senior men’s baseball. The games will be slower, players might have to wait an extra few seconds for a baseball to be retrieved from the dugout on a foul ball, players might have to find their own batting helmet as opposed to using a team helmet and teams would likely be asked to ensure the space is clean and disinfected prior to leaving after the game.
Hopefully we will hear from the league and teams shortly about the interest level in participating in summer version of the PBL with modified games and in a mini-league capacity. Until then, stay safe.