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Games without fans are ‘not an option’ for the Isotopes

David Dahl, left, greets teammates before his Colorado Rockies played the host Albuquerque Isotopes in an exhibition on March 25, 2019 at Isotopes Park. The chances for Isotopes baseball in 2020 remain up in the air. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal file)

Negotiations aimed at getting a modified 2020 Major League Baseball season started are giving fans a guarded sense of optimism this week. For minor league franchises like the Albuquerque Isotopes, only uncertainty remains.

Major league owners and players are reportedly considering a plan to begin a shortened season in July. The proposal could include games without fans in attendance and may not allow for minor league schedules.

Isotopes general manager John Traub remains hopeful that Triple-A baseball can be played this summer, but he realizes coronavirus restrictions make things doubly difficult for minor league clubs.

“Playing in front of no fans is not an option for us,” Traub said Monday. “All minor league baseball revenue models are built around attendance. Unless there’s some kind of television deal put in place, I can’t see that happening.”

Further complicating things is that Albuquerque competes in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, which typically involves plenty of commercial airline travel. Extensive travel has been curtailed during the pandemic, although possible adjustments for PCL teams could be worked out, Traub said.

“We could potentially change the schedule and divisions and become a bus league,” Traub said, “with us playing El Paso, Las Vegas and Salt Lake. All those things are under discussion, but at this point we’ve gotten no indication of what Major League Baseball’s plan is for the minor leagues.”

In the meantime, Traub is staying in touch with Isotopes sponsors, suite holders and fans, providing whatever limited updates he can. The club released a video on YouTube on Saturday with Traub addressing some commonly asked questions about the 2020 season.

Traub said he has heard of various possible scenarios that include a shortened Triple-A season. It has also been suggested that selected minor leaguers might play only at major league spring training facilities if and when big-league competition starts.

Rather than address the various scenarios, Traub prefers to wait for MLB and government health officials to make their respective calls.

“All we can do is be patient and stay ready,” Traub said. “It would be nice to have at least a fluid plan in place, and I’m hoping that will come soon. I’m very confident baseball will be played this summer, but what that will look like and how it will impact the minor leagues I really don’t know.”

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