JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp won’t start their baseball season until at least June 15 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep the sport under wraps.
The season was scheduled to start on April 9 but the pandemic scrapped not only that, but games across the Major League Baseball level, too. Tickets for Jumbo Shrimp home games that had already been purchased may be exchanged for future games this year.
Jumbo shrimp general manager Harold Craw says he still believes that the Shrimp will take the field here in Jacksonville and he hopes it will be on June 15.
“At this time everything is so uncharted and different and new and unique,” Craw said. “For us, we felt like that made the best sense. We would love, instead of saying we are postponing seven more games, we would love to say, ‘hey, our start date is this,’ and until that time we have eight games that were supposed to be played. But most importantly, our start date is this.”
The possibility of baseball coming back has become more real this week with the Korean Baseball Organization getting back out on the field with players wearing masks and no fans in the stands. But the hope is that baseball will be back here in Jacksonville sooner rather than later.
“I feel more positive now. If you had asked me 96 hours ago, I wasn’t as optimistic I got, to be honest. I don’t know if it was me watching baseball on TV, where there were no fans in the stands. I heard the crack of a bat and the pop of a mitt so it didn’t matter who was playing on TV. Maybe that is what has got me so excited right now” Craw said.
Minor and major league teams possibly playing games without fans has been discussed for weeks and Craw said that the Jumbo Shrimp always want to find a way to engage with their fans. If there is a way to do that with an empty stadium then he is open to the idea.
“I think it is tough because our model is so community-based that it could be tough to put it on but we know to take the next steps that might be what we have to do to get it done, and here are the steps we have to take," he said.
Baseball as a whole has been hit hard, although minor league baseball was already facing a potential significant change. A deal on a new Professional Baseball Agreement this year could see the elimination of more than three dozen affiliate level teams.
Baseball America and the Associated Press have both reported that a new PBA would likely include roughly 120 affiliate level teams.
There are currently 160 teams in affiliate level baseball. That doesn’t include clubs in leagues like the Gulf Coast, Dominican Summer and Arizona leagues.
A list of 42 teams targeted for elimination last winter included the Class A Daytona Tortugas and the Jackson Generals, who play in the Southern League with the Jumbo Shrimp.