It’s coming up on one year since John Adams stepped in as president of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
It’s looking like it’s possible he’ll finally preside over his first game in April.
First reported by Baseball America, Major League Baseball recently sent a letter to minor league franchises notifying them that Double-A and Single-A seasons will be delayed this year so teams’ development complexes do not become overcrowded in spring training. Major leaguers and Triple-A players would report to camp on time, then the lower-level players would arrive once they depart. It means Triple-A clubs could possibly prepare to play a “somewhat normal schedule with an early April start date,” according to the report.
At this point, Adams just wants to play baseball, and he’ll take it whenever he can get it.
“I think the message has been fairly consistent,” he said Thursday. “The plan is to start on time, and everything’s going to be subject to the pandemic. So, you know, we’re planning to start on time, I hope. Be awesome if we could roll out vaccines and get it to a point where we can have a significant (stadium) capacity. But you know, kind of like everything right now, you’ve just got to be — I think like every conversation we had — it’s just been a constant process of being prepared for every scenario.”
The memo signaling MLB intends to play a minor league schedule is welcomed news after last year’s slate was wiped out. But some plans for Triple-A are still cloudy. Baseball America notes that, if big league teams are still using bubbles for players, it could impact Triple-A teams’ need to use commercial flights for travel, which could lead to an initial return to the alternate sites, like PNC Field, that were utilized last year.
Double-A and Single-A teams, on the other hand, would get to trade April games for September games, and starting the season later would allow more time for the coronavirus vaccine to take effect. Triple-A clubs might not get that leeway, and might still face crowd-size restrictions come April.
“Well, one thing we know, generally speaking, is April’s not the best month anyway for minor league baseball,” Adams said. “So from my perspective ... if we can have 2,000 people in the ballpark in April, other than opening day, that’s probably not different than a normal year.”
Over the last three seasons, the RailRiders drew an average of 4,355 fans to the park for April dates, well below their season averages — 6,383 in 2019; 6,140 in 2018; and 6,462 for 2017 — but Pennsylvania’s crowd-size restrictions for outdoor venues wouldn’t allow that many into the park.
“I want to play baseball,” Adams said. “At the end of the day, you know, we’ll figure out how many people we can have and what can we do from a broadcast standpoint, but I feel like we have a much better chance of increasing our capacities in May if we started in April ramped up, versus just starting in May. So, I don’t know. It’s where we’re at. My general mindset for the past eight months has been ‘Just put it in front of me. We’ll deal with it.’ So, I can’t say I’ve thought about whether I’d rather be in the Single-A, Double-A situation or our situation. I’ve just been thinking about what our situation is, and we’ll make the best of it.”