SALT LAKE CITY — Professional baseball games may be back in the U.S. by Pioneer Day but pro baseball in Utah will have to spend the year in the dugout.
Minor League Baseball officials announced Tuesday that the league’s 2020 season is canceled due to COVID-19, putting an official end to Salt Lake Bees, Ogden Raptors and Orem Owlz seasons before they could even begin.
It’s the first summer in the history of minor league baseball, which was founded in 1901, that no games will be played, according to MiLB president and CEO Pat O’Conner.
"While this is a sad day for many, this announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment," he said in a news release.
Bees president and general manager Marc Amicone said in a statement that the decision was understandable but that the team is "disheartened for our community."
“Minor league baseball has been part of summertime in Salt Lake City for more than a century, and we will miss the opportunity to gather at Smith’s Ballpark for America’s pastime in one of baseball’s most beautiful settings," his statement read in part.
“Our Triple-A affiliation with the Los Angeles Angels and membership in the Pacific Coast League have a strong legacy and we greatly anticipate future baseball seasons in Salt Lake City. In the meantime, please follow public health guidelines to fortify the safe return of sports," it continued.
Tuesday’s announcement was expected after COVID-19 wiped out the first half of the season. MLB and its players reached an agreement earlier this month to play a 60-game season beginning around July 23-24.
MLB teams began unveiling 60-man roster pools for the shortened season on Sunday. The Angels roster includes many former Bees players, as well as players who were on the provisional 2020 Bees roster, including BYU alum Taylor Cole.
While O’Conner is optimistic about a 2021 season, it is a potential blow for the Raptors and Owlz, whose 2021 seasons were already in jeopardy. Both have been named as teams on the MiLB chopping block as MLB looks to cut 42 minor league teams from its system by the time the MiLB-MLB agreement ends in September.
Baseball America reported an agreement was reached in April; however, neither side has officially announced an agreement.