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Minor League Baseball cancels 2020 season

Baseball’s minor leagues canceled their seasons on Tuesday after Major League Baseball decided not to provide any players to its affiliated teams amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the minor league governing body, made the long-expected announcement. The Professional Baseball Agreement between the majors and the minors expires after this season, and MLB has proposed reducing the minimum affiliates from 160 to 120.

MLB already had told clubs to retain expanded 60-player pools, of which 30 players can be active during the first two weeks of the season starting in late July.

“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 played,” National Association president 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.”

Mississippi has two minor league teams, the Mississippi Braves and Biloxi Shuckers. Both play in the Double-A Southern League.

The M-Braves were scheduled to begin their 16th season at Trustmark Park in Pearl on April 9, but had been in a holding pattern because of the virus. There are 13 players in the Atlanta Braves’ 56-man player pool that played for Mississippi last season.

The Atlanta Braves are scheduled to open training at Truist Park in Atlanta on Wednesday, with their first workout slated for Friday.

“I want to thank all of the great M-Braves fans for their tremendous patience and understanding during this unprecedented period in our nation’s history,” said M-Braves vice president and general manager Pete Laven. “When the pandemic began in March, all we could think about was how great it was going to be when we could welcome everyone back to Trustmark Park. While we are disappointed the reunion will not be in 2020, our philosophy hasn’t changed. Our staff eagerly awaits M-Braves baseball coming back in 2021 as a fun, safe place for the community to celebrate together again.”

The M-Braves said in a release that fans who purchased season tickets and mini ticket plans for the 2020 season will receive account credits, thus rolling their purchases forward to the 2021 Mississippi Braves season. Groups, suite rentals and other corporate outings will also receive account credits to roll into the 2021 season.

Season ticket purchasers may also request a refund. Fans who had purchased individual game tickets online will automatically receive a refund within 30 days.

The Mississippi Braves ticket office and front office are currently closed to the public. While staff continues working remotely, fans with additional questions may email mississippibraves@braves.com.

Meanwhile, in Biloxi, Shuckers’ management also expressed disappointment over the lost season. The Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers has finished as the Southern League runner-up each of the past two seasons.

“There are no words to accurately describe how disappointed we are as an organization that the Shuckers will not take the field this season,” said Shuckers general manager Hunter Reed. “Our entire staff put forth an extraordinary effort to plan a record-breaking 2020 season so we feel a huge loss today for all Shuckers fans.”

While there will not be minor league baseball at MGM Park in Biloxi this summer, the Shuckers have been working to keep the ballpark busy. They hosted games with the semi-pro Louisiana Knights in June, and beginning next week will turn MGM Park into “Schooner’s Landing” — a nine-hole golf course.

Schooner’s Landing will be open from July 2-19. Tee time reservations are required. To reserve your tee time today, contact the Shuckers at 228-271-3472 or email info@biloxishuckers.com.