London Majors hold out hope for scaled-down baseball season, even as rivals suspend operations

by Ryan Pyette ( Free Press)

The Boys of Summer will be on the bench for some time yet.

The Intercounty Basebal League will not start until July 1 at the earliest and, even if given the green light in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, will be down three of its eight teams.

The six-time defending champion Barrie Baycats, Kitchener Panthers and Brantford Red Sox have opted to sit out the 2020 season, leaving the London Majors, Toronto, Guelph, Hamilton and Welland holding out hope for a modified and abbreviated schedule.

“We felt it was important to hold the door open for the possibility of having a 102nd season in the books,” IBL commissioner John Kastner said. “There was consensus, even with the teams that will not operate in 2020, that if there is a chance to play later, we should look into it.

“Will whatever that is deserve an asterisk? Absolutely.”

The IBL conceded that the prospects of a season of any kind “seems unlikely” and would only move forward with the full blessing of the province, medical officers of health and the municipalities. The league said in a statement “we realize a lot of good things would have to happen for us to have some baseball this year, including the absolute safety of our players, umpires, volunteers and fans.”

Majors co-owner/manager Roop Chanderdat didn’t want to pull the plug prematurely on a chance to provide some live local entertainment to baseball fans at some point down the road.

“I don’t want to be the one to stop the league after 101 years,” he said. “If we get necessary clearance from everyone, we will be able to give something back to the people – just an outing to come watch a game. There will be a lot of people with financial problems and this is relatively inexpensive entertainment.”

The likely best-case scenario what baseball organizers are calling “eight weeks of fun and done.” If you start in July, there are nine weekends to bring you through to Labour Day to operate a scaled-down season. One early model features a 20-game regular schedule, four of five teams making the playoffs, a one-game first-round followed by a best-of-five championship series.

Each team is allowed four import players. But there is a chance the league would play without them under these circumstances and and feature rosters built with entirely homegrown talent.

“That’s to be determined, but that’s really the likelihood,” Kastner said. “A lot of work goes into getting import players here and we have to look at what will be the difficulty of getting them across the border and the willingness to play in a shortened season.”

rpyette@postmedia.com