DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's officially a lost season for 12 Minor League Baseball clubs in North Carolina, three of which are in the ABC11 market including the iconic Durham Bulls.
There was a sliver of hope that they'd play ball once the Major League Baseball owners and players worked out a deal to start their season. Then the inevitable happened.
"It's still hard when you get those final words that the season is canceled," Bulls General Manager Mike Birling said. "That was probably even more frustrating because we just kind of had to sit and wait to see how that went before we ever got any determination of our season."
Varying safety challenges and the potential for problems were apparently too much to overcome.
"Just makes sense, you know? Birling said. "At the end of the day, we want everyone to be safe and healthy, and to try and pack people into the DBAP isn't the smartest thing to do right now."
For the Bulls, a canceled season directly affects close to 300 seasonal part-timers.
The good news is many of those are being given financial aid through a fund launched a couple of weeks ago called the Safe At Home Fund.
"That was really important. I think we're the only minor league team that did that," Birling said. "They're suffering also, so to be able to help them was important to us. The different things we're doing with our full-time staff. I know we ended up furloughing some people but taking care of their health insurance."
The lost revenue from games and other events is staggering. Some clubs likely won't recover.
"That's my fear is that when we do come out of this, you know, how many minor league teams will there be left," Birling said. "You know there are so many incredible communities and to think that they might not have Minor League Baseball because of this is really tough."
What does this mean for Birling and his staff for the rest of the summer?
"For us, we'll struggle you know, without a doubt, but we'll be ready and back here at the DPAB hopefully in 2021," he said.
The BAP won't be completely bereft of activity, however. Zoning for the building will allow the Bulls to host their first event in months this coming Saturday, July the 4th. About 300 people can come for movie night featuring Captain America. They'll also show fireworks on the video screen. If that goes well, they'll try to continue with smaller events