PAWTUCKET — On a day when Major League Baseball had definitive plans to usher in the 2020 season, PawSox executive vice president Dan Rea took time out of his schedule to talk about COVID-19 and its potential impact on the 2020 minor league season.
“It’s a tough feeling realizing that (Thursday) should be Opening Day and the Red Sox should have a game up in Toronto and the opener of the PawSox season is just two weeks away,” said Rea. “I think that knowledge is painful in its own way, but we also understand there are other industries that have been particularly hit hard by this situation.
“We’re certainly disappointed as sports fans to not have a baseball season underway but also hopeful that it could be coming back relatively soon,” Rea added. “When it does come back, it will be all the more sweeter for us.”
What was supposed to the swan song for the PawSox at McCoy Stadium has now become complicated.
Originally, there were supposed to be 70 opportunities for fans to make one final memory before the franchise relocates to Worcester.
As is the case with many walks of life nowadays, definitive answers are in short supply. In the event there is a minor-league season, would it still end on Labor Day as previously scheduled? Depending on the number of 2020 home games that end up being lost, would the PawSox make up the difference at McCoy in 2021 before heading to Worcester?
“It’s a question to answer down the road once we know what the 2020 schedule looks like,” said Rea. “We’re focused on having what we think can be a special season at McCoy in 2020.”
Schedule-wise, Rea says everything is on the table.
“Whether you extend the season beyond its traditional Labor Day close and move deeper into September, that’s certainly one possibility,” he said. “You’ve heard about talking about staging more doubleheaders than usual at the major league and minor league levels. We haven’t ruled anything out but also haven’t ruled anything in because of so much uncertainty. Once things become clearer once players head back to camp and we know when Opening Day takes place, you can plot out some different pathways.”
On Wednesday, leaders from each of the 14 International League clubs jump on a teleconference call with league president Randy Mobley. Rea mentioned the PawSox have been in regular communication with their colleagues at Minor League Baseball, Major League Baseball and the parent club up in Boston.
“When all this really started, we realized pretty quickly that this wouldn’t be any unilateral decision on our part,” said Rea. “There have been emails and 1-on-1 phone calls to make sure everyone is speaking the same language.”
As far as the day-to-day operation, the PawSox are no different than the majority of corporations and businesses that are having their employees work remotely. Rea credits advances in technology for enabling the front office staff to keep the lines of communication open – thank you, Microsoft Teams software – whenever there’s been a need to conduct staff meetings and conference calls.
“It’s the new normal but we’ve tried to keep operations going as best we can. In 2020, you do have tools are your disposal. [PawSox chairman Larry Lucchino] wanted the operation to continue with people redoubling their efforts amidst these unusual circumstances,” said Rea. “We’ve tried to keep operations going because we don’t know when Opening Day will be. If it’s sooner rather than later, we need to be ready to move quickly. We’re still fielding questions from fans and partners and tried to be deft when it comes to responding based on whatever information we have.”
One idea that has been taken under strong advisement is having International League clubs join up for a weekly eSports league and play MLB The Show 20 on Playstation. Closer to home, PawSox staffers Joe Jacobs and Tim Quitadamo have taken the lead in an increasingly popular choice in trying to help pass the time as the wait for real baseball continues.
“We’ve thought about having a virtual Opening Day on April 9 [which would have been when the PawSox ushered in the new season]. You might have a Red Sox vs. PawSox game and perhaps add in broadcasters so it sounds like and feels like a game,” said Rea. “We’ve also talked to other teams as this gaming idea has been on their minds as well. There could be some pretty good stuff coming down the pike. Even though it’s not quite the real thing, certainly the quality of graphics that are out there today can approximate it. It’s a brave new world and you try to make the most of it even when some of the traditional means aren’t available to you right now.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03