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Play ball: Minor league teams prepare to play first game during COVID-19 pandemic

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

This week, a minor league baseball league is scheduled to begin play in West Michigan.

A dozen workers spent the weekend prepping the ballpark for Wednesday’s season opener between the Kalamazoo Growlersand Kalamazoo Mac Daddies.

The teams are part of the Northwoods League, which features amateur, college-age players hoping to play professional baseball.

Brian Colopy is the general manager for the league's three teams in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. He says the players will undergo regular coronavirus testing during the season.

“Will someone get sick at some point?  Obviously, the statistics show that that’s a likelihood,” Colopy concedes, “So the things we’ve built to where if someone is sick the players are protected.”

To reduce exposing players to the coronavirus, Colopy says the three teams will only play each other for the next two months, instead of traveling to play other teams in the Northwoods League in surrounding states. He says they are planning on playing teams from Traverse City in an end of season tournament.

While the experience on the field will be a little different from years past, the experience in the rest of the ballpark will be very different.

Colopy expects to only have 100 fans in the 3,000-seat ballpark in Kalamazoo on Wednesday. He admits without the fans in the stands, it will be hard to break even this year.

“We’re in a position to take a loss or to do that this year ... so it literally has nothing to do with money,” says Colopy.

Colopy is optimistic they will be able to complete their season, which has already been shortened by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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