AKRON One of the rites of spring will have to wait until at least the start of summer in Akron.
The Akron RubberDucks announced last week that the on-hold 2020 season, which was initially set to begin in mid-April before the COVID-19 pandemic put sports around the world on hold, has had its start pushed back until at least June 15. With this decision, previously scheduled RubberDucks home games through June 14 will be postponed with make-up dates for the games impacted to be announced at a later date.
Still, the team is doing its best to keep hope alive for a season in some form, even if that ends up being shortened.
"Despite the delay, we are remaining hopeful and optimistic that baseball will return to Akron this summer,” RubberDucks general manager Jim Pfander said.
The decision was made following guidelines handed down by health officials and the office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, leaving the fate of hundreds of players, coaches, managers and team employees for the months ahead uncertain.
According to Pfander, the team will continue to monitor the situation and remain in touch with its parent organization, the Cleveland Indians, and baseball officials as well as state, county and local officials as they decide when and how various pandemic-related rules and standards will change, be scaled back or be extended in the weeks to come.
As they wait, team employees can only hope for the best and try to inform fans and communicate with them through social media. Pfander is trying to draw positives out of the situation and praised those working to battle the crisis and putting their lives in danger on a daily basis in the health care field and other essential businesses.
“We are encouraged by the tremendous efforts by our community leaders and healthcare workers to continue to combat this virus," Pfander said.
The plan at present is waiting and tending to whatever tasks and projects can be worked on as staff members work from home, laying the groundwork for a possible season ahead. Even as MLB mulls starting its season in some sort of "bubble" scenario in which teams are gathered in some sort of quarantined setting and play games with multiple teams at specific sites, other sports with ongoing seasons, such as the NBA, are debating similar scenarios.
"We will continue to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of all players, fans, and employees across Minor League Baseball and we look forward to bringing our community back together at Canal Park when it is safe for baseball to return,” Pfander said.
Anyone who has passed through downtown Akron and walked or driven by the vacant Canal Park in the past few weeks can see and hear the void left by baseball's absence. Because MLB stopped spring training, players have not yet been assigned to the major and minor league teams with whom they'll start the season, so rosters are empty, just as the ballparks those players will call home – eventually.