MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) There will be no Crackerjack, no crack of the bat, and no baseball at the Rec Field in Montpelier in the Summer of 2020. That after the Vermont Mountaineers announced Wednesday that they were canceling their season a little more than a month before it was scheduled to begin.
"In a time when you can't have any type of social big gatherings, it doesn't seem like it makes a lot of sense to us, and we didn't want to put the safety of the community at risk," said Mountaineers President and General Manager Brian Gallagher.
The Mountaineers have been a member of the New England Collegiate Baseball League since 2003, a Summer wooden-bat league that recruits some of the best college players from around the country to hone their skills and play in front of Major League scouts. The 'Neers aren't the first summer college ball team to announce they won't be playing this Summer, but they are the first in the NECBL.
"I'm sure right now I'm probably the least popular person in the league," Gallagher said. "We want to give the players some notice and let the host families know and the sponsors know."
Gallagher says the team's 13-member board of directors was unanimous in their decision, in large part because the team relies on host families to house the players, and many members of those families are at higher risk. But it's still tough to deny those players the opportunity to be seen, especially what's going on in the pros right now.
"Minor League Baseball is now talking about contracting and eliminating teams, which means that some of the guys that normally would get drafted may not now," Gallagher said. "We want these guys to get noticed but we can't take that risk with the health issues in the community."
From a financial standpoint, the 'Neers rely on sponsorship from local businesses, most if not all of which are also being dramatically affected by the Coronavirus.
"We felt like they're being burdoned enough," Gallagher said. "They're laying off employees, they're shutting their doors. To ask them to buy an outfield banner in this time would be pretty insensitive."
The team does have some sunk costs, but many of them are in equipment, and Gallagher is confident the team will be fine going forward.
"You know the hats, the bats, the baseballs. All those things we can use next year," he said. "We will be ok. We've set ourselves up that we can be strong coming out of this, I just think we need to work really hard in the offseason."
So while the stands will remain empty for now, baseball fans in central Vermont can look forward to being back at the rec Field in the Summer of 2021.