RICHMOND, Va. -- Looking out over rows and rows of unfilled seats at The Diamond, Todd “Parney” Parnell can only think of the fans that normally fill them.
“Right or wrong, minor league baseball is what we are,” Parney said through tears.
The announcement that had long been anticipated came Tuesday afternoon through Minor League Baseball that, for the first time in it’s existence dating back to 1901, there will be no minor league season anywhere.
For Richmond, that means for just the second time since professional baseball began playing in the River City, there will be no season in RVA.
“All across the country, there are people like me who have worked in this industry for decades,” said Parney, who has 31 years of industry experience in minor league sports. "They’ve never had a moment like this. This is the saddest day of my career.”
“These are unprecedented times for our country and our organization as this is the first time in our history that we’ve had a summer without Minor League Baseball,” said MiLB President and CEO Pat O’Conner. “While this is a sad day for many, this announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment.”
Minor league teams like the Squirrels rely on affiliations with major league organizations to provide players for their rosters. With the daily uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus, that isn’t possible this summer. Minor league seasons were scheduled to end on September 7 this year, so even if players were available, there wouldn’t be enough time to cobble together even an incredibly short season.
All of that rationale didn’t make the news any easier to take at The Diamond.
“It’s kind of like having someone you love or a pet that you’ve had for 20 years be sick and you know that it’s not going to end well,” Parney explained. “When you get the word, it still hits you like a ton of bricks.”
While there won’t be the traditional action on the field, that does not mean The Diamond and the Squirrels staff won’t be hard at work continuing their commitment to the Richmond community.
“We’ve worked hard over the last 10 years to connect ourselves to the Richmond community as something other than a minor league baseball team,” Parney said. “As sad as this is, we’re going to be better because of it.”
The Squirrels and CBS 6 will be hosting a fireworks show from The Diamond on July 4 from 9-10 pm that will keep at least one Richmond tradition alive. Some of the others will have to wait until next spring.
“We will continue to be the community impactor that we’ve always been,” Parney promised. “That is the one known thing we can promise everybody.”
Tickets purchased for the 2020 season can be moved to 2021 once next season’s schedule has been released. Additional details on exchanging 2020 tickets can be found here.