Pecos League Set to Go without Fans, If Necessary
The Covid-19 outbreak has created a disruption in the world that has not been seen since the 1910s. It is truly remarkable how a foe that is not even visible has put the vast majority of the world on a form of lockdown.
The sports world has not been immune as leagues from every major sport in the world have closed their doors. This has left fans clamoring for some form of entertainment as they hope that some league will find a way to take to the diamond, ice, court, or pitch. The Pecos League looks like they will be the first to do so.
The Upstart Independent League Says ‘Play Ball!’
Major League Baseball had floated the idea of playing games without fans present. Because of the large number of venues that teams have for spring training, the league figured that they could play games, even if fans weren’t present. After all, MLB makes a lot of money from television revenue and so they could easily afford the loss of stadium revenue.
This idea has not been discussed much since it was first reported back in early April and there was a lot of talk that this would not be feasible. That maybe there would not be baseball at all this summer.
Not so fast. The Pecos League issued a statement late last week that they will be playing games this season, even if it means that there will be no fans in the stands.
In the statement, the league announced that the 12-team league will reduce its schedule from 64 games to 48. The league was set to begin on May 27 and run until August 1, but they will now begin on July 1 and finish the regular season on August 16. That, if it “is deemed safe by local governments to play with fans at this time.”
If local governments do not deem it safe, the league has already issued their contingency plan. Instead of 12-teams, the league will drop to four and will play games in one location in an empty stadium. There will be no hotels used and no travel, greatly reducing the risk to players and league officials. The city was not named in the release.
A Brilliant Move for Sure
It is likely that if you asked 1,000 baseball fans what that Pecos League was, 999 would have no idea what you are even talking about. Independent baseball is a mystery to most baseball fans, and this league is one that is nearly anonymous to the vast majority of fans. In fact, if you asked most independent baseball fans, they likely could not even name eight of the 12 cities where the league has teams.
However, that is about to change. If MLB is not able to take to the diamond this season, there will be few, if any, options for fans. ESPN is already showing the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) and will likely give a lot of attention to the Pecos League, simply because it is professional baseball and being played in the United States. This league is about to become the darling of the baseball world.
Some will say that the league will lose a lot of money doing this, but that is not going to be the case at all. You can be sure that major sports outlets are going to promote this league because they want something to talk about, and the Pecos League will be it.
For those who think ESPN won’t cover it, think about this. About four years ago, the NBC tournament in Wichita had a team made up of former Major League players. Wichita Wingnuts co-owner Nate Robertson, a former hurler for the Detroit Tigers, put the team together and the tournament instantly became the talk of baseball. ESPN sent a crew out for the first game played by the team in the tournament and it was broadcast live on the media giant. The event was talked about on PTI and as well as other shows on the network.
Before that game, if you mentioned the NBC Tournament, most fans would have thought it was a golf tournament put on by the broadcast network. That single event garnered the tournament a lot of publicity.
The same is about to be true for the Pecos League. If they can play two games a day for nearly two months, including playoffs, they are about to make their players household names. They are going to get sponsorship deals and are going to move from a nearly unknown baseball league to one that is on the lips of every baseball fan in America.
So, watch out Frontier League, Atlantic League, and American Association. There is about to be a new sheriff in town.
By Robert Pannier