Instead of opening their 38th season in Round Rock, Texas, on Thursday, the Las Vegas Aviators will be at an alternate training site hitting fungoes to one another.
As team president Don Logan likes to say about playing minor league baseball games amid a lingering pandemic, it’s a fluid situation.
“May 6 is (still) the plan,” Logan said about opening the 2021 season against Sacramento at Las Vegas Ballpark about a month later than expected.
Like most everything else in the minors, the date is still tentative as is the length of the schedule. Logan said 120 games — 60 home, 60 away — could wind up being the number if the season isn’t extended. The PCL season has been 144 games.
“The world we live in is different than the one we left,” Logan said of minor league baseball’s changing landscape.
The Aviators were on top of the world before COVID canceled the 2020 season. Not only did they qualify for the 2019 Pacific Coast League playoffs, they shattered league attendance records with the opening of their new 10,000-seat ballpark in downtown Summerlin.
Logan said attendance probably will be limited to around 4,000 spectators when the season begins.
“It’s been tough, but people have been responding positively,” he said about the switch to digital tickets and other virus protocols such as the wearing of masks, social distancing and limited concession offerings. After greatly expanding the menu for their debut season in the new ballpark, it will basically be back to peanuts and Crackerjack in 2021.
“The pandemic’s way bigger than any of us. We’ve got to suck it up and deal with it and we will.”
On the bright side, at least the Aviators still are hitting fungoes. The same can’t be said for 40 lower level teams that were eliminated by Major League Baseball’s reorganization of the minors that coincided with the pandemic. But without ticket revenue to fall back on, some of those teams might have folded anyway.
“That matters, but it doesn’t matter (in the grand scheme),” Logan said of the Triple-A bottom line and baseball in general. “Just getting some normalcy back to our community and every community — you see it, watching the Dodgers and the A’s last night, the Giants and the Padres. People are in the stands and kids are sitting with their moms and dads smiling. We’ve gotta get it back to normal.”
Pacific Coast League officially dead
Although Major League Baseball indicated there still was a chance the former Pacific Coast League teams might continue to exist under that title following a reorganization of the minor leagues, that will not be the case.
The league founded in 1903 officially is dead.
“It’s gone. Internally we’re calling ourselves the Pac-10,” Aviators president Don Logan said of the 10 Triple-A West clubs, although the league may get a more formal name if a title sponsor is found.