After an unprecedented year for EVERY sport, it seemed that minor league baseball, the comfortable small-town escape most of us had silently nodded at as a constant for our entire lives, was in danger of (poof!) disappearing. MLB had used the pandemic (in part) to execute a consolidation-and-control scheme they'd entertained for years, shuttering several teams in the process. The remaining MiLB teams across the country were all fighting economic turmoil in 2020, unable to host games in front of empty stands, which were useless to them without gate receipts, their life blood. Stunningly, the minors have experienced a resurgence in 2021. Players, after an empty year, have continued their development trajectories. The tradition remains.
- Adam Weinrib
Why we needed this fandom this year
It was impossible to even conceive of minor league baseball disappearing prior to 2020. If MLB was forever, surely its small-town cousin would be, too? Spring turns to summer turns to fall, and 160 local baseball facilities follow the same inevitable path. A team might fold every so often, but there would always be a new community to embrace the game. But last season, minor league baseball disappeared as the fans did, and doomsayers began forecasting that it might never return when the world opened back up. Though the next steps still remain — better care must be taken of the players — it now seems possible we're on a rebuilt road to recovery.
What is this fandom’s best tradition?
It's a toss-up between quirky giveaways and autographs, both of which require you to arrive to the game two hours early. And why wouldn't you want to do that? Spill into the stadium as the gates open, squish between a brick wall and the tarp, holding a blank baseball and squeezing your outstretched hand towards the field. Place a bobblehead doll, a bingo board, or a mascot-head hat by your feet as you strain. There's no better childhood.