MARION (WSIL) -- This summer the Miners dugout will be empty. No lineup cards posted on the wall. The Southern Illinois Miners have suspended their season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Miners are disappointed they won't be able to play baseball but safety comes first. I caught up with Manager Mike Pinto to learn more about the details behind the decision, plus what does the future hold for the Frontier League and the Miners players.
"We really wanted to play, we really wanted to play," Pinto said. "We wanted Rent One Park to open. We wanted this to be a part of the feeling good part of this summer but as we looked at that and the safety of the our players, we saw Major League teams breaking out with COVID in their camps last week. I just can't bring the risk of that into the community. Host families that are some of which are senior citizens that take players into their homes, I can't put players there. I can't run that risk for them so as much as I want to play baseball, unfortunately the safety and the economic realities come into play and we just can't."
The Miners and the Frontier League looked into all options in an attempt to play baseball.
"I think some fans are going to say why couldn't you have opened and I understand that. They just don't know all the things that would be involved. First of all we could only put 680 people in the ballpark. All the seats that weren't part of the twenty percent, we'd have to take the bottoms off the seaters and zip-tie them. Our players would have to be put in a bubble for all intents and purposes, so we'd have to sequester them somehow. We would not be able to put them with host families and that's how we exist. Our players come here, they live with families, we'd have to get twenty-five hotel rooms. We'd have to get three buses in which to travel. Our players would have to be tested every day when they got here and every day before the game for their temperatures. We'd have to test fans when they walk in. There would be no concessions. The list goes on and on and we really wanted to play baseball."
Another obstacle was that there was no way to get the international players on the Miners, back into the country.
"Could've replaced them but our players are family for us and I'll look in particularly at the international players that I'm very close to. There are guys that are from Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Curacao who I care for as people and they are not going to get a chance to play this year. I don't know what the options are going to be so these are hard conversations to have with everyone."
No 2020 season, so what does that mean for the future of the Frontier League?
"The plans are, the technicality of this is we suspended the season. There are some teams that are going to try and play in areas that are more open than we are and I'm simply, if players want to go there, I'm going to lend the players to them but they would come back to us in 2021 sp right now, everyone's plans are we have to suck it up this year and rebuild everything for next year. We have kept some of our full-time staff on specifically so we can begin planning for the 2021 season but there are so many things out there right now. Major League Baseball is contracting minor league baseball teams. We are not sure how that would affect us. A possible expansion so right now it'll be a wait and see game over the course of the summer but like I said I was really excited about this group of players I had and there were a lot of really good players released by minor league teams over the last 30 to 45 days that would look really good in a Miners uniform in '21."
Some of the league's teams are not ready to give up on the season.
"The Frontier League is not going to operate a championship season. There are a few places, Washington and Pennsylvania where their gathering restrictions are different. Their social distancing is different. They are trying to put an option together of having a group of teams play just at their location, they'd have no travel. I know Joliet announced they are going to try and do something similar."