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MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: RockHounds' 2020 season officially canceled - Odessa American: Sports

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MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: RockHounds' 2020 season officially canceled

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Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2020 7:34 pm

MIDLAND What had been looming for the last several months is now official: No Midland RockHounds baseball in 2020.

Major League Baseball informed Minor League Baseball that it would not be providing players for its affiliated teams for the 2020 season, officially canceling the minor league baseball because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That announcement was made by RockHounds general manager Monty Hoppel at a press conference Tuesday at Momentum Bank Ballpark.

It is the first time in franchise history that at a RockHounds season has been canceled. It is also the first time that the Texas League has canceled play in 75 years. The league was suspended from 1943-45 due to World War II.

“It’s hard to believe,” Hoppel said. “We were patiently waiting and holding out hope to play just like Major League Baseball. I think it was hard enough for them.

“To try and plan for 160 to 180 teams throughout the country in different cities, I can see the challenges that they would have.”

The RockHounds were scheduled to open the 2020 season April 9 against Springfield. However, that got delayed until at least May 21. The last event at the renamed ballpark was March 12 for the Greenwood High School baseball tournament.

Now, the earliest the RockHounds could potentially take the field again would be April of 2021, which was supposed to mark the club’s 50th anniversary on the field. That now gets pushed back to 2022.

“This is new for all of us,” Hoppel said. “I’ve been in baseball for 38 years and this year was a new challenge like it is for everybody.”

Another potential challenge is how the league may look in the future. The schedule remains the same and carries over to 2021. With the current MLB collective bargaining agreement expiring next year, Hoppel admitted that the season may look different next year with the fluid situation.

That said, he says that the team maintains a strong relationship with the Oakland Athletics, the club’s MLB parent team.

“We’ve talked with Oakland and they’re really happy about having their Double-A team in Midland,” he said. Each major league team is going to have at least four minor league teams and we’ll be one of those four.”

With the word now official, Hoppel said that the team is now trying to moving forward getting ready for what 2021 has to offer. One of the areas of focus is getting in contact with season ticket holders and sponsors about what happens moving forward next year. That communication has been ramped up just in the last couple of weeks as the official cancellation of the season moved closer.

“A lot of them have been with us for many years,” Hoppel said. “We’ve communicated with them and we have a great plan with them to give them extra value to roll into 2021. I think they understand that this season is now next season and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Hoppel also confirmed that the team and its sponsors plan to host events at Momentum Bank Ballpark later this summer and into the fall.

Other teams, such as the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in Florida, have used their ballpark as an Airbnb and other Texas League teams such as Amarillo and Tulsa are using their ballparks for a summer collegiate league. Hoppel added that the team has been more conservative about holding those events for safety reasons.

“We refined and developed the COVID-19 safety plan for the ballpark,” he said. “We’re waiting for more supplies to get in for extra cleaning and to make it even extra safe. We just want to proceed at the right time based on the local guidelines.”

One event currently on the schedule is a baseball tournament comprised of area high school graduating seniors scheduled for July 23 and 24.

Hoppel added that details and players participating are still being finalized and anticipates enough players to field four teams for a round-robin tournament. He said that he was looking forward to giving the student-athletes another opportunity on the diamond and believes it can be done in a safe manner.

“We’re thinking about all the high school seniors that missed their spring baseball seasons,” Hoppel said. “So Ray (Fieldhouse) is working with as many schools as possible in the Permian Basin from 1A to 6A to get those players out here.”

Hoppel closed out his remarks by acknowledging the fans and showing appreciation for sticking around through the uncertain times.

“We’ve heard from a lot of them,” Hoppel said. “They miss RockHounds baseball probably just as much as we do. We just want to say we appreciate your stories, your communication and you hanging with us.”

>> Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas

Odessa, TX

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