Whitecaps await word on 2020 season after MLB sets schedule

West Michigan Whitecaps

The West Michigan Whitecaps wait in a dugout during a game.

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — After a long debate between commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLB Players Association, baseball will be happening in 2020, according to the league.

Players can report to training camp on July 1. Opening day is set for July 23 or 24 with a 60-game season scheduled until Sept. 27.

The Detroit Tigers will host preseason training at Comerica Park, as announced by general manager Al Avilia on Tuesday. Teams can invite 60 players to camp and they will be the only players allowed on the field in 2020. Team lists must be submitted by Sunday.

The 60 players invited to spring training will be cut down to a 40-man roster for the regular season. The remaining 20 players will be sent to an alternate site to play. For the Tigers, that place will most likely be Toledo, since it’s only about 60 miles from Detroit.

When the season begins, the teams will have a 30-man active roster that will be whittled down to 28 players after two weeks and 26 athletes after a month.

MINOR LEAGUES IN LIMBO

While the plan is in play for the major leagues, there is no official word yet on minor league baseball for 2020. Many in the Grand Rapids area are waiting to see if the West Michigan Whitecaps will return to Fifth Third Ballpark.

According to Whitecaps play-by-play broadcaster Dan Hasty, it’s still a holding pattern for anything below the MiLB.

“Because of the agreement made by the players association and the owners, I don’t think a decision for Minor League Baseball is far behind,” Hasty said. “For me personally, I’m bracing for not having a Minor League Baseball season and I hope I’m wrong.”

The shifting circumstances surrounding coronavirus are more complicated for the league because it must consider player safety, salaries, player counts, fans and other factors. If the MiLB comes back, Hasty believes a lot of games will be played in another state like Florida.

“If anything did end up coming to West Michigan, I can tell you this: The Whitecaps are ready for them,” Hasty said.

Some Whitecaps players could make the Tigers’ taxi squad, playing in Toledo for Detroit.

Taxi squads are reserved for players who don’t make the regular season roster. Teams can bring three taxi squad players to games with them. One of those three players must be a catcher.

However, it’s unclear if fans will be able to watch the games live.

“If they come to West Michigan for any kind of baseball, it would depend on what Governor (Whitmer) says,” Hasty said.

On Thursday, Whitmer issued an executive order allowing for the return of professional sports in Michigan, as long as fans aren’t present.

The Traverse City Pit Spitters recently announced they’re having a 60-game season, which starts July 2.

“With that area being a little further along (in the state reopening plan) than here, they are allowed to have 500 or less fans at games,” Hasty explained. “In a world where you can’t see many live sports, that’s going to be a hot ticket selling up north.”

Normally, the MiLB has 140-game seasons. The Whitecaps finished 49-89 last season.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

COVID-19 in West Michigan

More COVID-19 Support in West MI

COVID-19 in West Michigan

Coronavirus Resources

More Coronavirus Resources