While every sports league in North America is dealing with a new reality right now, it’s beginning to look likely that the Vancouver Canadians will see permanent changes to their seasons going forward.
And it has nothing to do with the global pandemic.
There have been some interesting developments in minor league baseball in recent months, with reports continuing to surface that Major League Baseball wants to reduce its number of affiliates from 160 to 120 teams. Class A Short-Season leagues, like the one the Canadians play in, are expected to be affected.
While Minor League Baseball has released a statement refuting some of the claims in these reports, Canadians president Andy Dunn spoke openly about the potential changes on TSN 1040 this week.
“Something’s going to happen,” Dunn told hosts Matt Sekeres and Blake Price. “Major League Baseball’s trying to cut some franchises.”
Now, to be clear, Dunn isn’t worried about the Canadians folding up shop.
“We’re going to have baseball in Vancouver, that’s not even in doubt,” said Dunn, whose team averaged a league-high 6,210 spectators per game last season — more than seven of 16 teams in the Pacific Coast League, a league the Triple A Canadians used to call home.
“The Vancouver Canadians are as stable a franchise as there is in minor league baseball, strictly because of the great fan support we get from everybody from the city and the surrounding areas. The only thing [that] is affecting Vancouver right now is we may be in a situation where they want to eliminate short-season baseball. We may be in a full-season situation beginning next year. There’s potential of that.
“If anything, we’ll get more games at the Nat moving forward than we currently have. I can’t say that’s a terrible thing.”
What seems likely to change is the length of the Northwest League’s season. The Canadians currently play a 76-game season, from June to September, which suits them just fine.
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Other Class A leagues like the Midwest League and the South Atlantic League play 140-game seasons that begin in early April, though Dunn speculated that the Northwest League could potentially move to a hybrid 110- or 130-game season.
Management has long said the short season works best for the Canadians because of how well it matches up with Vancouver’s best weather months. In an interview with Daily Hive in 2018, C’s owner Jake Kerr listed the full season beginning in April as one of the reasons why they weren’t interested in pursuing a Triple A team.
A longer season would mean more cold weather ball and more rainouts, but it would also be great news for local baseball fans, who would have the opportunity to enjoy more nights out at the Nat.
As for baseball this summer, Dunn is still holding out hope that it could happen with fans in the stands, even if that means pushing back the start of the regular season until September. Closed-door games wouldn’t be considered, Dunn says, due to financial reasons.