If Major League Baseball is considering playing in Arizona, the Arizona Collegiate Wood Bat League is following the lead and preparing for a summer season as well.
The league is set to play its first games on June 11, but also has plans for a shortened season that would start in July and not include a postseason.
“We’re still planning to start, but we’re going to do whatever is best for the people and of course follow all of the guidelines officials put out,” commissioner Matthew Fredette said.
Under a plan released last week, MLB is considering starting its season in May and playing all games in Arizona at Chase Field and local MLB spring training sites. All personnel associated with MLB would remain isolated, but MLB’s presence in Arizona could disrupt the ACWBL in that the league plays all of its games at Salt River Field, the Arizona Diamondback’s spring training facility. If MLB uses the field, Fredette will rely on fields at local junior colleges. Their schedule would be disrupted as those fields don’t have lights, but Fredette is hoping to find several fields to use instead.
Currently, the league is still accepting registrations and may form additional teams as needed. They are planning on having 14 teams but could accommodate as many as 20 full teams. Players who will be a freshman in college in the fall, along with any players with NCAA eligibility remaining are able to play in the ACWBL.
A few distinctions about the AWCBL make their plans different from other leagues. First, the league does not rely on host families. Players arrange their own accommodations, often renting homes and living together.
Additionally, the league does not sell tickets to games, meaning that they do not rely on the revenue and would be open to playing without fans if necessary. A lost or shortened season would not cause great financial distress.
“We always plan for these types of things even though we hope they don’t happen,” Fredette said. “If it’s a shortened season or the season doesn’t happen it’s going to hurt, but we’ll be back next year and better than ever.”
If the league is not able to play at all this summer, all players will receive 100% refunds on their fees.
Another unique aspect of the league is that many players who are from Arizona and attend college out of state return home in the summer, allowing their families to see them play in person.
“We want the parents to see their players,” Fredette said. “I love seeing all of the fans out there, I love talking to all of the parents when I’m out there.”
Arizona is under COVID-19 related restrictions until April 30. Fredette is planning to make a final decision on the season much closer to the expected start date. The league released a statement explaining their current status on March 12.
“We’re going to stay very fluid,” Fredette said. “It might come down to a week before the season when we make a decision. We’re going to wait as long as possible.”