As the nation prepares for a restart amid what many believe is a flattening of the curve regarding COVID-19 cases and impact, not all facets of the summer sports world are at the starting line ready to go.
The status of college baseball’s major summer developmental leagues remains up in the air with some observers thinking its chances are not good.
SEC Network college baseball analyst Ben McDonald on Monday expressed serious doubt that summer leagues – such as the Cape Cod League and others – will take place.
“I’m hearing it’s very iffy right now,” said McDonald, a former No. 1 pick.
Three weeks ago, Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco – McDonald’s catcher at LSU – was optimistic the summer leagues would happen.
Back then Ole Miss assistant coach Carl Lafferty was working hard to get a summer assignment for all Ole Miss players, even pitchers like Doug Nikhazy and Gunnar Hoglund, who would ordinarily take off for the summer after logging a high number of innings in a full college regular season.
Bianco hasn’t given up on the summer leagues yet.
“I’m still holding out hope there will be some kind of summer baseball such as a shortened season starting in July,” he said. “I’m less confident now that it will happen.”
Bianco said he believes a decision could be announced within the next couple of weeks.
The NCAA’s decision to extend an extra year of eligibility to all spring sports players and the likelihood of a shortened Major League draft – perhaps as few as five rounds – point to a surge of talent in college baseball for the 2021 season.
However, the absence of summer leagues for 2020 could have a negative impact on the game.
As an amateur between LSU seasons, McDonald competed in the Alaskan Summer League and the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
He spent a week in the Cape Cod League after his junior season as a negotiation play after being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles.
“These leagues are very important from a lot of different angles,” McDonald said. “No. 1, they help the development of players to go out and get some extra at-bats and throw a few more innings. No. 2, they help them get scouted because these summer leagues are where you could go around as a scout and you could really see the potential for next year.
“You could see them put a wood bat in their hands because all these leagues are wood bat leagues. You get to see these kids perform, so it’s going to hurt from a scouting standpoint there’s no doubt about that.”
The college leagues aren’t the only ones in jeopardy.
While there has been a lot of discussion about how to play a Major League Baseball season, there’s been less focus on the minor leagues.
“There’s a good chance the minor leagues never even happen, so all those kids are going to lose a year as well,” said McDonald, who also does broadcast work with the Orioles. “It’s tough all the way around. I don’t know if there’s a magic solution to it at all.”