There’s been no official word from Minor League Baseball on the status of the Northwest League this season. But with the scheduled start of the season less than three weeks away, Boise Hawks Vice President Bob Flannery anticipates an announcement of some sort soon, possibly in the form of a delay.
“There’s a lot of teams that are full season that were supposed to start in April,” Flannery told the Idaho Press on Thursday. “I remember reading a release right before their season was supposed to start, talking about a delay. So I would think that’s what they would do for our league, the Pioneer League, the New York-Penn League and the Appalachian League, the four short-season leagues. But we haven’t heard anything one way or another.”
The Northwest League held a conference call on Wednesday with representatives from all eight teams, with Flannery saying all eight were still preparing to play a 2020 season, but in a smart way. The league is currently scheduled to begin play on June 17, with the Hawks scheduled to host their first game at Memorial Stadium.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic still spreading throughout the country, teams will need to follow state and local regulations in determining when it is safe to start the season. In addition to Idaho, the Northwest League has teams in Oregon, Washington and one across the Canadian border in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The league, like all others in the Minor League Baseball system, also has to wait and see if Major League Baseball and its Players Association can come to an agreement on how to start up their league. Once that happens start dates can start to trickle down the system.
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Over the past few days, MLB and the MLBPA have been in back and forth negotiations, according to media reports, with a major point of contention surrounding player salaries.
“I got to believe with the NHL and the NBA, there was probably banter back and forth between the two sides, but the NHL got it worked out so to speak,” Flannery said, referring to hockey’s 24-team playoff which was announced earlier this week. “I’m sure baseball will (come to an agreement), and then once baseball can, hopefully they’ll open up all the minor league parks so their players can develop not just for this year, but to be future big league players.”
One advantage the Northwest League does have, in the event of a delayed start, is the Pacific Northwest has a climate where baseball can be played through September or October, Flannery said. In a normal year, the season takes place over the course of about two and a half months, so that gives the league some leeway in terms of when to start.
“Without giving a delayed start date, I think we can accommodate anytime starting in July, even in August, knowing that we have the months of September and October to fall into, if need be.” Flannery said. “I don’t think it would be different with the other seven teams in our league, just knowing it’s somewhat dry during these months. People want their baseball. I know there’s college football and other things going on, but I think people would still attend.”