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Minor League Baseball could go down swinging due to COVID-19

Roger Dean Stadium.JPG
Roger Dean Stadium (WPEC)

Take me out to the ballgame.

That's a phrase you won't hear much this summer as the coronavirus has sidelined sports. Some even feel it could practically kill Minor League Baseball.

Each summer, Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter welcomes Minor League Baseball fans.

This year, the place is empty and minor league baseball may be striking out.

“There’s a lot of anxiety right now among the minor leagues, people not knowing if their club is gonna be around next year," said Dr. Jim Riordan, director of the Florida Atlantic University MBA Sports Management Program.

Fans come out to see minor league baseball every summer, watching the players who hope to make it to the big leagues someday.

This summer, there may be no minor league baseball at all due to the coronavirus or the minor league teams may be playing in empty stadiums with no fans in the seats.

“With the minor league teams, when they don’t have their revenue streams coming in for an extended period of time, over a season and beyond, it would be catastrophic for some of the teams," Dr. Riordan said.

In the team store at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, there are T-shirts and hats for the Palm Beach Cardinals and Jupiter Hammerheads. But the question is, will there be any fans to buy them?

Major League Baseball teams get revenue from TV contracts, but minor league games don’t air on TV.

Instead, the minor league teams rely on ticket sales, sponsorships and revenue from sales of food, drink and merchandise.

But that money will dry up if teams are playing in empty ballparks.

“I’m very concerned with no fans at Roger Dean Stadium for the minor league season," said Ryan Witkowski, owner of the Stadium Grill.

The Stadium Grill, across the street from Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, relies on baseball fans for a lot of its business during the summer.

Witkowski says the last thing he wants to see is the teams playing in an empty stadium due to COVID-19.

“It would tremendously affect my business by not having fans. That would take a huge bite out of our business," he said.

Witkowski says the minor league games may draw only a few hundred fans. But for some special game nights with fireworks, there could be thousands of people.

He hopes that minor league baseball and the fans don’t get shutout.