Through Spanish flu, through World Wars, through the Depression — through everything you could imagine – the Rochester Red Wings took the field.
Now, the field is dark.
The Red Wings season – and all of Minor League Baseball — has been cancelled as part of Major League Baseball’s revised plan caused by COVID-19.
General Manager Dan Mason said the health protocols being put in place in the majors would be too difficult to implement in the minors. He said big-league teams would keep taxi squads in their home cities in case they needed to replace injured players.
“I have gray hair because of a lot of rainouts and a lot of losses,” he said. “I never thought I’d be virused out.”
The loss of the season is more than a disappointment for fans.
Cancelling the season wipes out between 250 and 300 jobs at Frontier Field, many of them held by city residents. With lost revenue from hotels, restaurants and bars, not to mention the money spent by Red Wings players who live five months in the community, Mason said the economic impact is at least $1 million dollars.
“I’m probably low-balling it,” he said. “There are a lot of ways that the ballpark and the games here generate revenue for other people around town.”
Mason said that many of the part-time workers at the ballpark are high school students perhaps in their first job and college students who come back year after year and earn promotions. Mason has been with the team for 31 years.
Given the effects of COVID-19 on the local economy, he said some of those young workers may find it tough to get a summer job.
Mason said that in June, the Red Wings furloughed about half of the 20-person full-time staff.
To help the club’s finances, the Red Wings said they would contact season ticket holders, group and catered events customers and ticket pack customers about applying what they’ve spent toward the 2021 season.
Refunds are available upon request, but the team is hopeful that many fans will roll their deposits over to 2021. Ticket exchange information can be found at RedWingsBaseball.com.
“The loss of an entire season has put a strain on all Minor League Baseball teams, and we are among those who feel the financial effects,” said Naomi Silver, the team’s president and chief executive and chief operating officer.
“To the extent that fans and sponsors can afford to allow their 2020 payments to be held over to 2021, it would be extremely helpful to our ongoing operation,” she said. “We were well prepared for a rainy day – or even a rainy season – but never did we imagine the absence of an entire season.”
This will be the first summer without professional baseball in Rochester since 1894. A team has been operating continuously since 1899.
The International League, of which the Red Wings have been a member for a record 132 years entering 2020, has played every year since 1884.
The IL was the only minor league to complete the 1917 season after World War I began. The Governors’ Cup has been awarded every season since 1933 and only twice during that time has a Governors’ Cup final not had all its games completed in the series: 2001 after one game due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and 1981 when poor weather forced the series to end after three games.