Futures League commissioner Joe Paolucci just guided his league through a truncated 10th-anniversary season. Having done that, the commissioner is excited about the future.
“We’re sitting good,” Paolucci said. “Pittsfield’s going to be back in the league next year. We’re trying to work off the momentum we gained from this year. It’s just conversations I have with the owners, with the general managers and try to come up with ways to make the league better.”
One way, the commissioner said, might be to increase the number of games on the schedule.
“We’re trying real hard to increase our schedule to 60 games,” Paolucci said in an interview with The Eagle. “I think we can do it. I think there’s plenty of space in the schedule. It’s going to make us more attractive. It’s going to make our owners more money. It’s going to provide more opportunities for players and make us a really attractive league for them to be a part of.”
Through its first 10 years, the Futures League worked with a 56-game schedule, with 28 home and 28 away games. Adding four games would give each operator two additional home dates.
This could be talked over when the Futures League owners, a group that includes the Goldklang Group who own the Pittsfield Suns, meet on Oct. 21.
“In that meeting, that’s when we start to throw around ideas and, like I said, find certain ways we can improve the league,” Paolucci said. “We take those ideas and we try to develop them between October and our winter meeting in January.
“By the time January rolls around, we’ve either implemented the changes or we’ve decided to go a different route.”
The commissioner said that if the league goes to 60 games, they can start at the same time and just push the end of the year back a bit.
“It’s a little late for some people, but there’s still plenty of time for kids to go back to school,” he said. “We can fit it in. It’s definitely going to be a little tight. We have the ability to play doubleheaders on Sundays to squeeze extra games in. I think it can work nicely.”
One thing that fans of Futures League teams did not get to see in 2020 was the new playoff structure.
Last year, the league’s ownership groups approved a two-half regular season. The team that finished first at the end of the first half earned the No. 1 seed in the postseason, while the team that finished first in the second half was the No. 2 seed. Two other teams with the best overall records would be the final two teams in the playoffs, and the four would play best-of-three series to determine a champion.
As for the 2020 season, which was played without the Suns, Paolucci said, all things considered, things went well. The league got through a regular season of 39 games and crowned Nashua as champion after a best-of-three series with Worcester.
“Obviously it had its challenges with the lack of fans, or the inability to have fans,” Paolucci said. “It was a special year because we were able to bring baseball back to these communities that were really missing it. The kids didn’t have high school. The kids didn’t have college. To be able to get out there and provide them a brand of baseball means a lot.
“We’re still getting a lot of positive feedback from people all around the country.”