The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, a league of independently owned and operated teams unaffiliated with Major League Baseball, announced Thursday it plans to play a "competitive 2020 schedule" following the COVID-19 pandemic. Friday was scheduled to be the league's Opening Day.
"The safety of each team's fans, staffs, and on-field personnel remains our first priority," league president Rick White said in a statement. "Meanwhile, we are making every effort to play a competitive 2020 schedule. The ALPB is committed to welcoming back fans to our ballparks when games are approved and it is safe to play ball again.
"To our loyal fans and sponsors, thank you for your resolute support," White added. "It has never been more significant."
The Atlantic League's announcement comes one day after Minor League Baseball issued a statement shooting down a rumor that the 2020 minor-league season has been canceled. It had been reported MLB teams will have expanded rosters and hold what amounts to an extended spring training for minor leaguers in 2020.
"The report circulating tonight that the 2020 Minor League Baseball season has been canceled is false," said the statement. "Minor League Baseball has confirmed with Major League Baseball that no such statement was made. No decision has been made as to when it will be safe to begin the 2020 season."
Independent leagues and minor leagues are in similar situations. They do not have lucrative broadcasting agreements like MLB clubs and instead rely heavily on attendance to generate revenue. Plotting a season for 30 MLB teams following the pandemic will be a challenge. Now imagine doing it for over 200 minor-league and independent teams. It's borderline impossible.
Last year MLB partnered with the Atlantic League to use it as a testing grounds for rule changes. Among other things, the Atlantic League tested the three-batter minimum rule, allowing runners to "steal" first base on pitches to the backstop,.