The 2021 season looks like it’s ‘all systems go’ for the Rocket City Trash Pandas.
Reports of MLB’s plans to play a full major league season is a good sign for minor league teams, but there are still hurdles.
The Trash Pandas' President and CEO, Ralph Nelson, said that, barring another pandemic, everything should be good to go this season. Nelson said owners have been told to expect a May 1 opening day, but there’s a lot of moving parts that will determine what happens before then.
“Right now, they’ve told us to plan on our players going to spring training about 30 days later than the major league players,” Nelson said.
According to Nelson, the minor league season appears to be a little behind schedule this year due to spring training vaccination plans that would put major league and AAA teams first. Still, he said he’s been told they’ll likely play a 138-game schedule beginning in May and ending in late September.
Promising as that sounds, the team still doesn’t know what the attendance policies will look like or even have a schedule yet.
“It’s hard, I can’t book somebody to throw out the first pitch if we don’t know the date,” he said, “and so everybody is kind of in the starting blocks waiting to be let loose.”
MiLB schedules are expected to be released in early February, but since they are normally released in August, Nelson said they’ll have to do about six months of planning in two weeks to get things ready.
As that first opening day nears, whether it be May or later, Nelson said the community deserves a lot of recognition for their support and understanding, adding that the team has sold just under $4 million worth of merchandise without even having thrown a pitch.
After a long year of events and entertainment at Toyota Field, baseball is back in the spotlight.
“As soon as we took down the Christmas lights -- the mindset is, 'Alright, let’s go,'” Nelson said. “It’s time for baseball.”