There will be professional baseball in Sugar Land after all this season.
While the rest of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball on the East Coast remains locked down due to the new coronavirus pandemic, Texas has partially opened up outdoor sports, making way for the Sugar Land Skeeters to play ball.
Instead of playing in the Atlantic League as it has for the last eight years, however, the Skeeters have formed a four-team professional baseball league that will play all its games at Constellation Field from July 3 through Aug. 23.
Each of the yet-to-be-named teams will play a 56-game season compared to a normal year where the Skeeters would play 70 of their 140 games at home.
“It’s imperative that we continue to serve our role in the community as a family-friendly entertainment venue and now more than ever we realize how important that role is,” said Skeeters owner Kevin Zlotnik. “It’s also going to be critical that it’s a safe environment for our fans, staff and players and we’re working with Memorial Hermann and our local and state officials to ensure we provide that.”
The teams will consist of former Major Leaguers and various Minor League and independent league players. Skeeters manager Pete Incaviglia and the father-son duo of Roger and Koby Clemens have committed to managing teams in the league, with the other two managers yet to be announced.
“I’m excited to be a part of this and I think the Zlotniks and the Skeeters organization are providing a great opportunity for these younger players to keep their skill sets sharp,” Clemens said.
“This is something that is going to be really special and is going to serve as a huge boost to the baseball community by providing this opportunity for players,” Incaviglia added.
According to the Skeeters, the league and Constellation Field will adhere to guidelines from the state of Texas as well as the CDC in regard to stadium capacity and social distancing. Players will be tested for COVID-19 at least once a week, as well as prior to their arrival in Sugar Land.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on being an organization that gives players another chance,” Zlotnik said. “Given the unfortunate releases of hundreds of minor league players over the last few weeks, we realized there was a major need for a league like this. Already, we’ve received commitments from guys with great resumes, former Major Leaguers, former first-rounders, and high-caliber prospects. I know people are going to be really impressed with the quality of play.”
The Skeeters are compiling a pool of players that will be drafted by the managers of the four teams prior to their arrival.
There will be seven games played at Constellation Field each week from the July 3 Opening Day through the conclusion of the season on Aug. 23. The schedule is subject to change, but single games are anticipated to be played on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and doubleheaders on most Saturdays and Sundays.
Tickets for the games are not yet on sale and an announcement will be made once they are available for purchase.
The formation of the league indicates a possible split with the Atlantic League, at least for this season.
“If the Atlantic League has a season this year, we will not be a part of it. That’s all we can really say at the moment,” Posner said.
ALPB President Rick White issued a statement following the Skeeters announcement in which he said the league is holding out hopes of having a season this year, even without the Skeeters.
“Wednesday’s announcement by the Sugar Land Skeeters demonstrates the ongoing efforts to provide baseball in each ALPB community. The State of Texas currently permits gatherings up to 50% of a sports venue’s capacity, unlike the mandates in other ALPB states,” White said. “Nevertheless, the other ALPB clubs continue to make every effort to play the 2020 Championship Season while constantly monitoring COVID-19 developments in their states and counties.”