Season sets on Wahconah Park: Pittsfield Suns ownership group tells Futures League that team will sit out 2020 campaign
The Futures League owners are hoping to make an announcement on Monday about a truncated baseball seasons. The Pittsfield Suns, however, will not be a part of that season.
Team owner Jeff Goldklang, president of the Goldklang Group, sent a letter to the other six league owners and commissioner Joe Paolucci declaring the team's intention to sit out 2020.
"In March, our organization developed a logistical plan to re-open our parks, filled with safety measures recommended by experts," Goldklang wrote in an email obtained by The Eagle. "That list was extensive, and contemplated the safety of our players, fans and co-workers in the most complete manager possible. Sadly, we have determined that we are unable to guarantee those measures.
"Wahconah Park, while historic and charming, poses impossible restrictions on our abilities to maintain everybody's safety."
The hiatus is only for the 2020 season, and Goldklang told the other Futures League owners that the Suns will return to the fold for the 2021 season.
The schedule for the 2020 season will be out either Monday or Tuesday.
The Suns will join teams from 17 other leagues to not play in 2020. The NECBL, which includes the North Adams SteepleCats, had canceled its season, as did the Cape Cod League, the Alaska League and the New York State-based Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, among others.
The college Coastal Plain League will begin its season on July 1, with only three of its 15 teams playing. Four teams in that league have already opted out, while eight others are still trying to make that determination.
While the Suns are the only team in the Goldklang Group that is definitively not playing in 2020, it is looking more and more like their affiliated minor league teams in Charleston, S.C., and the Hudson Valley Renegades in Fishkill, N.Y., are not going to play. Nothing official has come from either the South Atlantic or the New York-Penn League regarding playing in 2020.
The Group's St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association, will play a 60-game schedule, with 42 games set to be played in Sioux Falls, S.D. The Saints are awaiting word regarding the dropping of crowd restrictions in Minnesota.
The Goldklang Group had published a detailed COVID-19 Readiness Plan, and had posted it on the websites of its teams in Charleston and St. Paul.
In the email, Goldklang wrote that meeting those plans at Wahconah Park would be impossible.
"The layout creates consistent bottlenecks in the seating bowl, resulting in high traffic areas regardless of that day's attendance," he wrote. "Bathroom facilities, according to our consultants, are impossible to solve based on their design — personal spacing is simply not afforded unless capacity is limited to a number that is simply not viable for any facility."
The email went on to say that since on-site office space is limited, it would be "impossible for our employees to maintain safe spacing during work hours, and game days would obviously create further crowding."
The Futures League will play with teams in Nashua, N.H., New Britain, Conn., Worcester, Lynn, Westfield and Brockton. While the three states involved are at different stages of reopening, there are some questions concerning exactly when and where teams can play.
The Worcester Bravehearts play home games at The College of the Holy Cross, and there might still be a lingering question about when the college's athletic facilities will be opened. There are also reports of potential issues in Nashua of teams going back and forth from Massachusetts or Connecticut.
"I wish we had better news," Goldklang wrote. "The above concerns, coupled with the unknown nature of the virus and the uncertain results playing out across the country as states begin their various phases of re-opening, have forced our hand."
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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