Sugar Land Skeeters set to Embark on Grand Social Experiment in the Name of Playing Baseball in a Pandemic

After delaying the start of their four-team summer league by a week, the Sugar Land Skeeters, of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB), remain committed to welcoming fans to the Ballpark and kicking off the league on July 10, 2020.

It should be noted that the COVID-19 virus spike that led to the one-week delay in the league start is even steeper than it was on July 3. The virus did not dissipate in the Texas heat given an extra seven days. Additionally, the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, issued an executive order mandating that masks must be worn in public, while also admitting that perhaps the state reopened too soon, and that it was a mistake to allow bars to reopen.

Furthermore, the league will be starting up before any additional spike in cases brought about by July 4th gatherings has been fully accounted for.

After delaying the start of their four-team summer league by a week, the Sugar Land Skeeters remain committed to welcoming fans to the Ballpark and kicking off the league on July 10, 2020 despite rises cases of COVID-19.
Photo R. Anderson

So, with a virus raging out of control within the community, the four-team league comprised of the Sugar Land Skeeters (Managed by Pete Incaviglia), Team Texas (Managed by Roger and Koby Clemens), the Sugar Land Lightning Sloths (Managed by Greg Swindell), and the Eastern Reyes del Tigre (Managed by Dave Eiland) are set to play ball in the middle of a global pandemic.

From a purely scientific data collecting standpoint, the league has the potential to provide great insight into whether one can play baseball with fans in the stands in a COVID-19 hot spot, and not have a majority of people who attend the games get sick. It is likely to also provide insight into how one can eat popcorn and nachos while wearing a mask.

From a purely human perspective, it seems grossly irresponsible to move ahead with the league given the current climate in the state with health systems tasked to the near breaking point trying to care for people getting sick. Creating events with thousands of people potentially in attendance just does not seem prudent.

Even though players will be tested for COVID-19 at least once a week, fans will have to pass a temperature check at the gate before being allowed in, that does not stop people from potentially infecting people on the field, and while they wait for the gates to open.

Major League Baseball (MLB), which is dealing with players testing positive before the season has even begun, is likely to take notice to see what kinds of things will happen in the Skeeters League. MLB still plans a return at the end of July for their 60-games in 66 days mini season, despite an inability to test all players before opening some training sites.

I am not a fortune teller, although I have eaten a lot of fortune cookies. With that in mind, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that people are going to get sick as a result of the Skeeters league.

I am also going to crawl further out on the limb and say that if MLB moves forward with their season, many players are going to get sick. Some players may see their careers cut short due to COVID-19 complications.

By inviting fans to see baseball in the middle of a pandemic the Sugar Land Skeeters are hoping the the oidds are forever in their favor as they tempt fate in a social experiment that MLB and other leagues are likely to pay very close attention to as they try to stage their return to action.
Photo R. Anderson

The risk of catching the virus, as well as complications causing problems down the line, has been cited by several high-profile players who have decided to sit out the 2020 MLB season. The risk trade of playing baseball, versus staying home do not come out with a value that they are willing to live with by playing ball.

Of course, the counter argument to that is that people are going to get sick anyway. So, why not have a little fun and see some baseball if we are all doomed to catch the disease? The so called, “might as well just live with it” narrative is gaining steam among certain population groups.

The two sides entrenched in the COVID-19 battle have been reminding me a lot lately of the story of the two frogs and the bucket of milk. For those of you who may not have heard that story, or for those needed a refresher the fable goes as so:

Two young frogs fell into a bucket of milk. Both tried to jump to freedom, but the sides of the bucket were steep and no foundation was to be had on the surface of the liquid.

Seeing little chance of escape, the first frog soon despaired and stopped jumping. After a short while, he sank to the bottom of the bucket and drowned.

The second frog also saw no likelihood of success, but he never stopped trying. Even though each jump seemed to reach the same inadequate height, he kept on struggling. Eventually, his persistent efforts churned some milk into butter. From the now hardened surface of the milk, he managed to leap out of the bucket.

In many ways, people’s response to COVID-19 is similar to that of the two frogs. On one hand, you have the people who are going to do whatever they want since they think that the virus is going to get them anyway. Worse, they think that they are immune to catching the virus. More deadly are the people who have been programed to think that the virus is a hoax.

The two sides entrenched in the COVID-19 battle remind me of the story of the two frogs and the bucket of milk.
Photo R. Anderson

The other camp of frogs sees that the virus is out there, and they know that there is a chance that they might get it. However, they are going to do everything they can to avoid getting it. This includes social distancing, wearing masks, and you know avoiding large gatherings like indoor conventions, and even outdoor baseball games.

Based on the number of COVID-19 cases in America, where over 131,000 people have died, it seems like we have more of the go out and do whatever you want frogs, compared to other countries who seem to have more frogs looking out for each other.

In many ways, it would have been fitting for one of the teams in the Sugar Land Skeeters league to be nicknamed the Frogs, although I will admit that I totally want a Lightning Sloth shirt.

Therein lies the rub, in almost any other year I would be stoked at the idea of a summer baseball league with double headers every weekend, and four teams battling for a title that the winner never has to defend. I would be the first one in line when the gates opened and I would soak up the sun and eat my weight in hot dogs.

There are also some great promotional items being offered at the games that, in any other year, I would make a bee line to get. Hello, Lightning Sloth Rally Sloth Claws.

But this isn’t any other year, and no matter how much we want to wish the COVID-19 virus away, the simple fact is that it is not going away until there is a vaccine. Those are the hard facts.

And, no matter how much I want to see live baseball in a Ballpark, eat a hot dog, drink Dr Pepper, and wear foam sloth fingers, I just cannot justify doing those activities based on all of the science I have heard about how the virus works.

While my opinion has been stated many times, and in many ways, that I would prefer to see baseball at all levels return next year, instead of putting people at risk, I do not have anything against the people who do choose to go to the Ballpark this year. I will just not be one of them.

I just hope that their decision to gather together does not cause the spread of the virus to increase to the point that in a Kevin Bacon Seven Degrees of COVID-19 separation that I, or the people I care about, become infected because someone got tired of social distancing and wanted to watch baseball in a Ballpark, or have a barbecue with friends, or any of the other virus spreading activities that we are not supposed to be engaged in right now.

So, I choose not to go watch live baseball in a Ballpark this year because I am taking care of my health, and looking out for the health of others.

We are all those frogs in the pail of milk, and we can decide which frog we want to be. As for me, I am choosing to make butter out of this situation.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about milk and butter has me craving some Kraft Dinner.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Sugar Land Skeeters Form A League of Their Own to Play Ball During Global COVID-19 Pandemic

The Sugar Land Skeeters, of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB), recently announced their intention to form a four-team professional baseball league at Constellation Field, beginning July 3 and running through Aug. 23.

The idea of a four-team quick summer league sounds great on the surface. Of course, as one peels back the layers of the onion, they are reminded of the fact that we are still in the middle of a global pandemic caused by a virus with no known cure or standard treatment.

The news of the league comes as the number of COVID-19 cases in Texas continues to rise to record numbers on a daily basis. As a result of the rising numbers of cases and hospitalizations, some businesses that had reopened, like bank lobbies, are starting to close again.

The Sugar Land Skeeters, of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB), recently announced their intention to form a four-team professional baseball league at Constellation Field, beginning July 3 and running through Aug. 23.
Photo R. Anderson

With that in mind, the team ownership noted when they announced the league that they would be working with local and state health officials to provide as safe of an environment as possible for fans, staff and players.

Among the steps being taken is following the guidelines from the state of Texas as well as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in regards to stadium capacity and social distancing. Players will be tested for COVID-19 at least once a week, as well as prior to their arrival in Sugar Land.

In regards to fans in attendance, the plan calls Constellation Field to allow up to 25 percent of its 7,500-seat capacity to be full for each of the planned 56 games in the season.

According to a press release from the Skeeters, there will be a total of seven games played at Constellation Field each week from the Opening Day on July 3 through the conclusion of the season on Aug. 23. The schedule is subject to change, but single games are anticipated to be played on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and doubleheaders will be played on Saturday and Sunday.

The names for the four teams have yet to be announced. In the spirit of helpfulness might I suggest such timely names as, the Pandemics, the Social Distancers, the COIVD-19’s, and the Doc Faucis.

The four teams will be managed by Skeeters manager Pete Incaviglia, seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens (along with his son Koby), and former Cleveland Indians pitcher Greg Swindell. The fourth team will be led by a manager to be named later. It should be noted that both Roger and Koby Clemens played for the Skeeters.

Former Sugar Land Skeeters player Koby Clemens will manage one of the four teams in the Skeeters Summer League alongside is father, Roger.
Photo R. Anderson

Open tryouts for the league are scheduled to take place at Constellation Field on June 24. It is expected that the teams will consist of former Major Leaguers and an assortment of professional players who’ve appeared at affiliated minor league levels as well as independent leagues.

Despite the best efforts of social distancing and testing, it is extremely likely that there will be people associated with the league who contract COVID-19. In the event that occurs, team officials have noted that the show will go on as the league takes the posture of accepting a certain level of risk in order to play baseball.

This is the magic question faced by all sports leagues, and in fact all individuals, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. How much risk is one willing to take in order to do the things that were done in the olden days of pre-March 2020?

The answer depends on the individual’s level of comfort, as well as whether the individual involved belongs to one of the identified high-risk categories of greater susceptibility to the virus.

Years ago I saw this sign at a Pensacola Pelicans game. It is unknown whether the tickets to the Sugar Land Skeeters Summer League games will include small print waiver language stating that fans in attendance assume both the risk of getting hit in the head by a foul ball, as well as assuming all risk if they contract COVID-19 at the ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

It is unknown whether the tickets to the games will include small print waiver language stating that fans in attendance assume both the risk of getting hit in the head by a foul ball, as well as assuming all risk if they contract COVID-19 at the ballpark.

I can picture the wording going something like this, “Sorry folks, you can’t sue us for getting sick. The lime green mosquito up front should have told you that.”

The Skeeters are not alone in trying to find creative uses for their Ballparks this season. According to the ALPB, the High Point Rockers, Long Island Ducks, and Southern Maryland Blue Crabs are working with several professional baseball clubs, towards finalizing a 70-game schedule of play that would begin in mid-July and wrap up at the end of September with a five-game championship series.

Other ALPB teams that are not able to host baseball games due to crowd size limitations in their regions are hosting movie and music festivals in their Ballparks as a means to generate revenue.

And of course, Major League Baseball is still trying to hammer out an agreement to play baseball without fans in attendance for the 2020 season.

Personally, I would love to see baseball at all levels sit the season out. I do not believe the short-term gains of unfurling those Opening Day banners in 2020 outweigh the long-term risks to player health, as well as overall league health.

The last thing anyone should want to do is have a short term pebble drop ripple turn in to a tsunami with unforeseen consequences down the road. One should not sell their soul for a shortened season.

And just because a Ballpark is open, it does not mean that fans need to go to it. If the movie Field of Dreams was filmed in the era of COVID-19 it is likely that the voice heard in the corn field would tell Ray Kinsella to “build it and they will come after the threat of the COVID-19 virus has been eliminated by the invention of either a vaccine or a therapeutic treatment.”

After all, those players may have been ghosts, but they were certainly in a high-risk category based on their ages. Speaking of that Iowa corn field, the New York Yankees and Chicago White White Sox are scheduled to play each other at a temporary ballpark adjacent to the field from the movie on August 13. It is unknown whether the game will be played, and if it is whether the people will be allowed to come, or if only the corn will have ears to hear the game.

Baseball, and the rest of life as we knew it in the golden days of pre 2020 will hopefully return next year. We will reach the other side, and when we do, the Ballparks will once again be full of fans and games of dizzy bat. Until then, teams and leagues will continue to seek creative solutions to “go the distance” as they navigate uncharted waters like a 21st century Lewis and Clark to ease our collective pain.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk about shortened summer baseball leagues has me in the mood to watch Summer Catch.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson