EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The sights, sounds, and excitement of Otters baseball will be non-existent this season. That’s because the Frontier League announced Wednesday that it’s canceling the 2020 season due to concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s hard news to swallow, but it’s the finality that’s certainly relief because not knowing is almost as bad as knowing, but now that the decision was made it’s certainly understandable,” Otters manager Andy McCauley said.
“As a member of the directors of the Frontier League, we’ve been actively discussing this regularly,” Otters president John Stanley said. “We have a plan that would be a reopening plan, but the way things have continued to change, this just became a situation that we felt was too tenuous to put anyone at risk.”
The Frontier League tried its best to have a season, initially postponing the first pitch of the year back on April 1, and then continuing to hold out hope for the next couple months.
However, the coronavirus pandemic was too much to overcome, and the league erred on the side of caution for its players, fans, and employees.
Also complicating matters were the strict regulations on pro sports teams in Illinois, where there are 5 league squads, as well as the 14-day quarantine for anyone entering or leaving Canada, where there are two new teams in the league.
“It’s been 25 to 30 years since I haven’t reported for baseball, so it’s definitely a weird feeling,” McCauley said. “It’s unfortunate because a lot of work went into this year. I was really happy with the roster we put together. A lot of them understood; a lot of them said count on me for 2021, but it wasn’t meant to be and certainly you got to reflect that there’s other people going through worse times than not playing baseball.”
And with the season now cancelled, fans will have to wait until next year to see all the renovations made at venerable Bosse Field.
“We were really ready to unveil it and show off Bosse Field - a lot of the renovations with the lights and video board,” Otters director of communications, Preston Leinenbach said. “2020 - a new decade - it was a perfect time to do that, but unfortunately this puts it back to 2021.”
The Otters organization released the following statement:
“Today, the Frontier League administration will issue a release announcing the 2020 Frontier League Championship season will not occur. Because of this and other factors, the Otters will not play baseball in 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the underlying reason for the cancellation of the league season. Over the past three months, league officials and owners reviewed numerous alternatives in an effort to play this summer, but in the long run, unresolved regulatory and health issues made playing unfeasible.
You may recall that the Frontier League expanded to 14 teams in October; the new teams are in Canada, New York, and New Jersey. The seven states where franchises are located (and the country of Canada) have chosen vastly different ways of handling the pandemic, and that dilemma has impacted the league’s ability to play as a single unit.
For example, Canada has imposed a 14-day quarantine coming into the country and again when leaving. Professional sports in Illinois, the home of five Frontier League teams, remain strictly regulated. On balance, the uncertainty of which teams can play and when they can play played a key role in the decision.
Secondly, in the case of the Otters, our average attendance is around 2,000, with occasional games where the crowd size is over 3,000. CDC recommendations would make it impractical, if not impossible, to host that many fans without posing a health risk to those attending, regardless of how much effort management put into preventing that from happening.
The health of our players, fans, employees, vendors, and others upon whom we rely to create an entertaining season has always been of utmost importance, and the risk for crowds was a primary factor for us as well.
Otters leadership continues to evaluate whether Bosse Field can host any types of events this summer, as we are aware that many people enjoy coming to Bosse Field for a variety of reasons. If appropriate, management would welcome hosting smaller groups on some basis and will keep the community informed of this possibility.
In the meantime, we plan to entertain you with a series of activities related to the Otters, such as the Virtual Anniversary game recently broadcast on YouTube. Check social media and our website for updates.
Needless to say, we are very disappointed (and saddened) that we cannot play this season. A lot of work has gone into what would have been a wonderful year with the extensive improvements to Bosse Field and an expanded and more competitive league.
We are already looking forward to 2021 with a lot of plans that we hope our fans will love.”
Debuting in 1993, the Frontier League is the largest and longest-running of the modern independent leagues and features teams stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River and from the Ohio River to the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The Evansville Otters are the 2006 and 2016 Frontier League champions.