BG 2019 Keys Opener

The 2019 Frederick Keys stand during the singing of the National Anthem last April at their season opener. This year’s opener will almost certainly not go off on schedule now that spring training has been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Like most people in his position, Dave Ziedelis has spent most of his working time the past few days on the phone or in meetings, trying to gather some semblance of what the future may look like.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” Ziedelis, the general manager of the Frederick Keys, said of the coronavirus pandemic that has completely paralyzed the world of sports and much of the world as we know it.

Prior to their roster even being finalized, the Keys’ season was thrown into complete limbo Thursday when Minor League Baseball, following the lead of Major League Baseball and most major sports leagues, announced that the start of the 2020 season was indefinitely delayed.

The Keys were scheduled to begin their Carolina League season April 9 in Fayetteville, North Carolina, against the Woodpeckers. Their home opener at Nymeo Field was scheduled for April 16 against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

But it’s almost certain that neither game will be played on those dates.

Once Major League Baseball gets clearance to begin its season, Ziedelis said the minor league season might be able to begin two weeks later.

“We are in a holding pattern right now,” he said. “Although we fully expect to start our season, we just don’t know when that will be yet.”

On Thursday, Minor League Baseball issued a press release that stated, “We will work with Major League Baseball and our community partners to resume play as soon as it is safe to do so. The health and safety of Minor League Baseball fans, players and executives is our top priority, and our thoughts are with those around the world who have been affected by this outbreak.”

Ziedelis reiterated those sentiments on behalf of the Keys, saying that public health was a much bigger priority than playing sports.

He spent most of the previous 48 hours reassuring sponsors, business partners and fans that things will eventually get back on track.

Whenever the season does resume, Ziedelis said it’s likely to pick up at whatever point they are on with the existing schedule since it’s not practical for the league to reconstitute an entire schedule at a late stage like this.

For example, if the season began on June 1, the Keys would play whatever games were already scheduled from that point forward. In that scenario, the first two months of games would be scrapped.

There would still be small details to be worked out with the league, such as when the first half of the season would end and when the second half would begin. Would there still be a break for an all-star game in the middle of the season?

It’s also impossible to determine right now the business impact the coronavirus pandemic might have on the Keys and other minor league teams.

“I don’t mean to state this in a selfish way, but our April and early May is typically very low drawing because of the weather. It’s typically cold and rainy, and the fact that school is in session and those types of reasons,” Ziedelis said. “So, from our standpoint, regretfully, if we had to miss four to six weeks of the schedule, that would be the four to six weeks that I would select.”

But, for now, uncertainty reigns. So all Ziedelis, like anyone else, can do is wait and hope for the best.

“Once we are in the clear as a community and a state and a nation, people are going to want to come out and experience life, be in large events, be in group settings and socialize,” he said. “So, we’ll be there for our community.”

Follow Greg Swatek on Twitter: @greg_swatek

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