ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Red Wings return to play must wait a little bit longer.
Major League baseball informed its Triple-A clubs that the start of the season will be pushed back at least a month.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan first broke the story. It was confirmed by the Wings a few hours later.
Instead of playing a Triple-A season, big league teams will operate alternate sites just as they did last season. Those alternate sites will play host to a “practice squad” of players that could be called up in lieu of Triple-A teams operating.
Frontier Field was the site for the Blue Jays alternate site in 2020, but it will be vacant this time around. Toronto is opening the season in Florida and will keep their practice squad much closer. Same goes for the Wings new parent club in Washington.
Minor league games are now expected to start at the beginning of May. That was always the plan for the Double-A, High-A, and Low-A levels. Triple-A is now on the same timeline.
The primary motivation for the change is Covid safety. It makes more sense for MLB to delay the minor league season at all levels rather than try to force games at stadiums without the space and resources to accommodate all the necessary Covid precautions.
Red Wings general manager Dan Mason thinks this is the correct decision.
“I applaud Major League Baseball for doing this. I applaud them for doing it now, well in advance,” Mason said Tuesday night.
Minor league stadiums generally don’t have the facilities to house two baseball teams while also adhering to social distancing. The hope is further vaccinations nationwide will allow for the relaxing of Covid safety regulations and make it possible for minor league games to be played.
This could also work out very well for baseball fans in Rochester. The new home opener is now May 18th and allows the Wings to skip out on most of the home games that are often played in the dreadful cold of April evenings. In addition, more vaccines could allow state government to ease restrictions on the number of fans that can attend games.
“We can’t wait to welcome our fans back. Man, oh man. We cannot wait,” Mason said. “We know it’s been a long time. We know we’ve been asking people to be patient. I think it will be worth the wait. To wait another month, it really could mean some really good news for our fans, in terms of our capacity.”
The new plan is not a guarantee. If the Covid situation nationwide has not sufficiently improved, MLB could decide to push the start of the minor league season back even further. Mason said that decision would likely be made by mid-April.
The games that were canceled over the first four weeks of the Triple-A season will not be made up. It leaves Rochester with a 120 game season and 60 home games. After the number of games the Wings hosted in 2020, Mason will be happy to sign up for 60.
“It’s clearly better than zero,” he said.