Bob Flannery long held out hope that the Boise Hawks would be able to get some sort of season in this year. The team’s vice president felt that the climate in this region would allow for the Northwest League to push the season back a month or two if it needed to.
But once he saw Major League teams expanding their rosters for a shortened season, he began to see the writing on the wall. The concern for the status of the season switched from the COVID-19 pandemic to availability of players.
“When they were looking at starting up baseball again and using spring training complexes, that’s where I still had hope,” Flannery said. “But once they decided to not use the spring training complexes and have all the Big League teams do workouts in their cities, then I started to feel ‘they can’t have all their scouts and trainers at their big league facilities and have no one at their complexes.’ So that was to me the final straw that there wasn’t going to be a chance.”
Minor League Baseball made it official on Tuesday, announcing the cancellation of the 2020 season. The move comes after Major League Baseball informed MiLB that it would not be providing affiliated Minor League teams with players this season.
It will mark the first summer since 1986 that there will be no professional baseball in the Treasure Valley and the first summer since 1901 without Minor League Baseball anywhere in the country.
“These are unprecedented times for our country and our organization as this is the first time in our history that we’ve had a summer without Minor League Baseball played,” MiLB President and CEO Pat O’Conner said in a statement. “While this is a sad day for many, this announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment.”
What that 2021 season will look like is also uncertain. Reports have been swirling since the fall that Major League Baseball is looking to contract more than 40 markets when the Professional Baseball Agreement between the MLB and its affiliates expires after this season.
Early indications showed that the Hawks would be safe and the Northwest League would be transformed into a full-season league. But a report from The Athletic in April stated that the Hawks were up against Salem-Keizer and Tri-Cities for the sixth and final spot in the Northwest League.
Flannery said he doesn’t have any information regarding possible contraction of the team, but remained optimistic on the possibility of become a full-season team next year.
As a short-season team, the Hawks started the season in Mid-June, following the completion of the MLB Draft. As a full-season team, they would start in April.
“When we first heard about the Northwest League converting and switching over to a full season, we were told we’re probably looking somewhere between 60 and 65 home games,” Flannery said. “With 26 sellouts last year in 38 games, we thought this would be great. We know it’s cold in April, but it would be great. We were hoping, and we are still hoping, that all eight of our teams are in it. I think there’s a lot of opportunities for West Coast teams to have their (affiliate) teams out here instead of the middle of our country, or the East Coast.”
In the absence of baseball this summer, the Hawks will look at ways to utilize Memorial Stadium. This spring they opened ‘The Park,’ an outdoor, sit-down restaurant in the stadium which served tradition ballpark food, in addition to beer and wine. However, the team shut that down when the Idaho Department of Health’s Central District rolled Ada County back into Stage 3 of its reopening plan.
Flannery said he’s hopeful that the Hawks will be able to open the restaurant back up as well as getting other events into the stadium, when safe to do so. He mentioned the possibility of hosting as many as three fireworks shows, which would be free to the public, in addition to hosting a game featuring local high school seniors, who did not get to complete their high school seasons this spring.
“We’re better at the baseball business, but the restaurant business was definitely working,” Flannery said. “I’m sure its something we’ll take a close look at, even when we get out of this, is there something we can do with this in a good year?”