Volcanoes season officially cancelled

Hunter Bishop gets a secondary lead for the Volcanoes in a game from last season. Bishop is one of the top prospects in the San Francisco Giants system (File).

For the first time since 1996, there will not be any Volcanoes baseball this summer.

On Tuesday, June 30, Minor League Baseball (MiLB) announced that there won’t be games at any level this summer after they were informed that Major League Baseball (MLB) would not provide players to their minor league affiliates due to COVID-19 limiting their schedule — the MLB is set to begin a 60-game schedule later this month.

“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,” MiLB president and CEO Pat O’Conner said. “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.”

Salem-Keizer Volcanoes CEO Mickey Walker was hopeful that there would be an abbreviated minor league season after MLB and the players association finally came to an agreement on a season after months of conversation. But ultimately, there were too many logistical issues.

“I sure had hope, but the obstacles were too much for the MLB to overcome. They would have had to send players to 160 different cities. With each area having different health protocols, it just wouldn’t have been feasible,” Walker said. “We’re extremely disappointed that we won’t be able to provide Volcanoes baseball this year.”

While the organization isn’t offering refunds to season ticket holders, Walker promises that everyone who bought season tickets for 2020 will have automatically have their purchases rolled over into the 2021 season — meaning that they will have tickets for every Salem-Keizer home game.

This poses an interesting situation for die-hard Volcanoes fans. On one hand, there have been multiple reports saying that the Northwest League (NWL) will be expanding their season, which could potentially start in May of 2021.

“We haven’t received official word yet, but that certainly seems to be the talk around the water cooler,” Walker said.

If that does occur, the Volcanoes could potentially play up to 70 home games next year — which is nearly double what they would play during a typical summer — and season ticket holders would be receiving an incredible bang for their buck.

However, with the MLB wanting to cut ties with 42 of their current minor league organizations, it’s possible that the Volcanoes could lose their affiliation with the San Francisco Giants this fall and be forced to try and survive as an independent team.

At this point, it’s hard to say what independent baseball for would look like for the Volcanoes, but without a Major League affiliation, it’s safe to assume that the product value would likely be of less appeal to season ticket holders — as well as the general public.

Walker, however, is approaching the unknown with a positive attitude. With the MLB drastically changing their draft process — the draft reduced from 40 rounds in 2019, to five in 2020, and will bumped back up to 20 rounds in 2021 — Walker believes that the Volcanoes could still get high-quality prospects, even without an MLB affiliation.

“I think we could potentially get better players than we would get from the Giants, especially since the draft is so short now. I also think being an independent team would allow us more freedom for community involvement,” Walker said. “Maybe I have too positive of an outlook, but I think we can still make lemonade out of lemons.”