This Thursday is going to hurt. A lot.
That is the day that the 2020 Major League Baseball season was set to get underway. That will not be happening, and it won’t be happening anytime soon with MLB saying that a return to play date would be late May at the earliest.
Our area Legion baseball programs will also remain in a holding pattern for the time being with regards to their seasons and when we might expect those campaigns to get underway.
But what about the Western Nebraska Pioneers and the Expedition League? Pioneers team owner, Chuck Heeman, says, as of now, things are still on schedule to start the season on time, “We are listening to what the experts are telling all of us. While incidents of COVID-19 will continue for a while, the current restrictions are on track to be lifted by early May. Of course, we will adjust if needed but right now there isn’t a need to change the schedule.”
As far as league business is concerned right now this current health crisis is top of mind for everyone involved, “For 2020, we’re all kind of working through this current coronavirus crisis. Our league is having weekly conference calls among the owners of the 10 teams and of course we communicate constantly by email”, Heeman said.
Heeman says he’s noticed a few small positive signs across the sports landscape in the last few days such as Major League Soccer hoping to announce a return to play date of mid-May, along with the professional baseball league of South Korea starting to get back on the field in preparation for their season.
If the season is able to start on time the Pioneers would open up on the road at Casper on Tuesday, May 26th.
With all levels of collegiate athletics canceled for the remainder of the school year the players slated to join the Pioneers roster are working through online course studies. Of course with no season this spring those players are anxious to get back on the field and some have even reached out to Heeman about a possible early report date.
“If all holds as it is now I’d love to have the bulk of our players and interns in town around May 15th-18th. The players will have been out of competition for about two months and we know it’ll take a little time for them to get back in the groove”, Heeman said.
Even just barely over a week into this national crisis here on the home soil it’s pretty evident how much sports is missed and needed. And while we await the pop of the mitt and the crack of the bat, Heeman says safety will remain the first priority as we wait, “We will in now way put our fans, staff, players, coaches, or the public in any sort of harm’s way through this pandemic. We play baseball and entertain families. We’re a great community asset but by no means an essential service that has to be open when others are closed. We want all the people involved to be safe as they enjoy Pioneers baseball.”
The Pioneers were the inaugural league champion in 2018 and they finished as league runner-up last summer.