The Lancaster Barnstormers will go back to being a professional baseball team in 2021.
Exactly which opponents the team will play and when remain very open questions.
“There are a lot of moving parts around baseball that could affect the makeup of (the Atlantic) League,’’ Barnstormers General Manager Mike Reynolds said last week.
The parts starting flying when Major League Baseball announced last spring a plan to eliminate most or all of its affiliated short-season and rookie-level minor league teams.
For most MLB clubs, it means reducing from nine or 10 minor-league affiliates to six, and to cluster most of the six around the major-league city.
Last week, the New York Yankees announced that the Somerset (N.J.) Patriots, for decades one of the AL’s most stable and successful clubs, were becoming their Class AA minor league affiliate.
That leaves the AL with seven teams: Lancaster, York, Southern Maryland, Long Island, High Point (N.C.), Sugar Land (Tex.), and a new, not-yet-nicknamed club in Gastonia, N.C.
In the past, when the AL was left with an odd number of teams it would add a “homeless’’ team, mostly of AL veterans looking for a place to play, appropriately called the Road Warriors.
“That’s not the current plan,’’ Reynolds said.
Instead, the AL announced July 30 it is seeking new teams, in an environment where many American towns are suddenly stuck with a minor-league history and a ballpark, but no team or league.
“With all that is going on in professional baseball, as well as the world in general, we look to be part of the long-term solution to the many challenges facing municipalities, owners, ballparks, and communities in our sport,’’ AL founder and chairman Frank Moulton said then.
The Atlantic League announced in June it was canceling the 2020 season. About a week prior to that, Sugar Land opted out of the AL for the year. There were reports that Sugar Land was destined to become an affiliated minor league club, perhaps with the nearby Houston Astros.
That didn’t happen. Sugar Land ran a four-team professional league in its ballpark over the summer, hosting 65 games from July 10-Aug. 30. But Sugar Land will apparently be back in the AL in 2021.
The AL would like to operate with a minimum of eight teams, and as many as 10, in 2021. It is still possible that existing AL franchises could leave the league to become big-league affiliates.
“None of us are definitely in for next year,’’ Reynolds admitted. “If MLB came knocking, any team would be open to that conversation.’’
Since the shutdown, the Barnstormers have employed about 15 full-time people and turned Clipper Magazine Stadium into a multipurpose event facility.
The Clip has hosted movie nights, an RV show, kickball leagues, food distributions and the like. Stay tuned for Christmas related tree and light shows.
“We’re still here,’’ Reynolds said. “We’ve been working all summer. It’s been really humbling, the support we’ve gotten from the community.’’