If there is Atlantic League baseball in 2020, the Sugar Land Skeeters won’t be a part of it.
That much was determined during an emergency meeting of AL directors Thursday night, after Sugar Land announced its intention to form a new league to begin play next month.
The AL will determine next week if there will be a 2020 season, Lancaster Barnstormers general manager Michael Reynolds said after Thursday's meeting. That may depend on state governments.
The Barnstormers are, with the York Revolution, one of two AL teams in Pennsylvania, where attendance at events is capped at 250 for counties in the Green phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic reopening plan.
Lancaster is in the Yellow phase, though likely to be in Green by the time the AL season could begin. But Reynolds said last week it “wouldn’t make sense’’ to play games with only 250 people allowed in Clipper Magazine Stadium.
“We’re trying to figure out if we can get approved for more,’’ Reynolds said Thursday.
AL opening day was originally scheduled for April 30, but the league announced March 16 it would postpone the season indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The ALPB is committed to welcoming back fans to our ballparks when games are approved and it is safe to play ball again,” league president Rick White said April 30.
If there is a season, the AL will be a six-team league, featuring the Barnstormers, High Point (N.C.) Rockers, Long Island Ducks, Somerset Patriots, Southern Maryland Blue Crabs and the York Revolution
Sugar Land, a suburb of Houston, Texas, is the only AL team outside the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast regions, and thus the only one that requires air travel.
“We’re committed to the safety of our fans and our players,’’ Reynolds said. “The amount or air travel (to and from Texas), from a safety standpoint, doesn’t seem responsible.’’
Sugar Land is planning a four-team pro league to play a 28-game schedule from July 3-Aug. 23. All games will be played at Constellation Field, home ballpark of the Skeeters, with fans in the seats.
Reynolds said Sugar Land is “taking the year off’’ from the AL, but acknowledged that the team’s long-term future may be elsewhere.
When Baseball America reported in April that major league baseball would be eliminating 42 short-season and rookie-level minor league teams, it added that “two independent league teams, the St. Paul Saints and Sugar Land Skeeters, would be added to affiliated ball.”
The new league in Texas will involve Roger Clemens, the former major league pitching star, who is committed to managing one of the teams along with his son, Koby. The Skeeters’ manager, ex-big leaguer Pete Incaviglia, is also on board.
The players will be former major leaguers, minor leaguers and veterans of independent leagues like the Atlantic League. Hundreds of pro players are looking for work after being released last month as part of major league baseball’s ongoing downsizing of the affiliated minors.