IronPigs: When in the World Will IronPigs Start?

“It’s been a long year. ”

That’s a great quote from “Captain Obvious” but certainly something we can all agree on. I can’t help but think back to last year at this time: The Phantoms were collapsing, the promo schedules were being released for IronPigs and R-Phils, and things like “Ticket-Palooza” and “National Pig Day” were on my schedule for the coming weeks.

This year, there’s nothing on my schedule, save a few hockey games so that I know when to turn the TV on–or perhaps attend in the future if tickets come my way. There can’t be a promo schedule without a baseball schedule. You can’t pick up your season tickets without knowing when the games will happen. We wait.

We’ve heard that a minor league schedule will be coming out soon. Perhaps as soon as I press “post” on this blog. We’ve also heard that as MLB Spring Training (75 players maximum, including injured/rehab players) breaks, that’s when the AA and A players will be at the Clearwater complex for their own Spring Training–in order to prevent over-crowding and such. It was assumed, that as the MLB squad forms their 26-man opening day roster, that many of the remaining players from the initial 75 would form the AAA roster, and that their schedule would proceed from there, as per normal. Of course, the math doesn’t work out perfectly, but with injuries, opt-outs, releases, trades and the ubiquitous shin contusions it all would fall into place.

The Phillies are due to open their MLB schedule on Thursday, April 1 at Citizen’s Bank Park. I might expect in that case that a AAA schedule would start on Thursday, April 8. I would think that Reading and Lakewood (now High-A) would then start around May 6. That’s the way I had it all worked out in my mind, anyway.

Now, whether and how many fans would be allowed to be at the games, and how that would look? That’s another thing to consider, entirely, given the status of the global pandemic as we enter year two.

Recently, however, I’ve heard “people who know things” casually drop the phrase “Alternate Training Site” in conversation, in the context of what will happen to the players who don’t make the Phillies. The inference being that perhaps the AAA roster won’t form right away, and maybe AAA will wait until May and start when the other minor leagues get underway. I would think, then, that minor league ball would then run through most of September rather than play an abbreviated schedule. But, that’s only an assumption on my part. If you’re the owners, would you rather try to “sell” April games, with perhaps limited attendance and poor weather–or September games when the kids are back in school and fall sports are fully underway? I’m not sure. I bet they’re just hoping for as close to the full 70 home dates as they can get.

I think perhaps with different guidelines coming from different localities, the new league structure, stadiums that might need to prepare for the AAA level, and other changes, that the May start may be more likely for AAA. Part of me hopes I’m wrong, though. I just want to go to baseball, man.

As we look forward to the schedule dropping for one or all leagues, here are a few more things for you to look for:

  1. For AAA, of course, number one is when it starts. April or May?
  2. There are some new teams in AAA-West, in the new divisional alignment of what was previously the International League (for now without a permanent name.) Will teams travel all the way from St Paul to the Northeast? Will they all? Will it be every season? Will it be different this year, from what’s planned in the future? They’re trying to make travel in the minors more efficient, but this is a little more for this particular league, depending on how they set it up. For this season, if they do travel, I’d anticipate that maybe they’d put those games near the end of the season as virus cases continue to decline and immunizations continue to rise.
  3. Now is a good time to remind you that MLB now has a greatly increased influence and ownership stake in the minors. What role will they have in the formulation of the minor league schedules? Will we even know?
  4. As mentioned above, how many games ill there be? Will our local teams exert influence in order to back-load the home games for greater attendance? Will that impact the number of weekend dates? When will the schedule end?
  5. For Reading, the schedule was usually greatly asymmetric with respect to the Yankees affiliate, Trenton. Trenton is closer to Philadelphia for many Phillies fans, than Reading. Plus there had been at least some overlap in ownership groups between Reading/Phillies-system and Trenton. For those reasons, far fewer Trenton games happened in Reading, and far more in Trenton, because it was such a good draw there–which helped that ownership group and presented an opportunity for more fans to come from Philadelphia to see the team. Now, the Yankees AA affiliate is in Somerset, NJ, closer to New York. There is no ownership overlap. Will the Reading/Somerset schedule be more symmetric? Maybe it’s just me who thinks about these things, but I like to see the prospects play and the Yankees are usually stacked–when they’re not sending MLB players to play in the AA playoffs under the guise of “rehab,” that is.

After the schedules drop, it will be interesting to see how quickly the local organizations can get up to speed with promotional schedules, and ticket events, and the like. Certainly, guidance from State and local officials will guide how some things roll out. I’ve seen minor league clubs across the land start to advertise for staff, though, so we know it’s gonna happen.

It’s just a matter of when (and how).

See you at the park (again, some day),

@Kram207

PS: Here’s the new structure. * signifies a change from the past which may impact our local schedules.

TRIPLE-A

Triple-A East

Midwest Division
Columbus Clippers (Indians)
Indianapolis Indians (Pirates)
Iowa Cubs (Cubs)*
Louisville Bats (Reds)
Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals)*
St. Paul Saints (Twins)*
Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers)

Northeast Division
Buffalo Bisons (Blue Jays)
Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies)
Rochester Red Wings (Nationals)
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Yankees)
Syracuse Mets (Mets)
Worcester Red Sox (Red Sox)

Southeast Division
Charlotte Knights (White Sox)
Durham Bulls (Rays)
Gwinnett Stripers (Braves)
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Marlins)*
Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals)*
Nashville Sounds (Brewers)*
Norfolk Tides (Orioles)

Triple-A West

East Division
Albuquerque Isotopes (Rockies)
El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres)
Oklahoma City Dodgers (Dodgers)
Round Rock Express (Rangers)
Sugar Land Skeeters (Astros)

West Division
Las Vegas Aviators (A’s)
Reno Aces (D-backs)
Sacramento River (Giants)
Salt Lake Bees (Angels)
Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners)

DOUBLE-A

Double-A Central

North Division
Arkansas Travelers (Mariners)
Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Royals)
Springfield Cardinals (Cardinals)
Tulsa Drillers (Dodgers)
Wichita Wind Surge (Twins)

South Division
Amarillo Sod Poodles (D-backs)
Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros)
Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers)
Midland RockHounds (A’s)
San Antonio Missions (Padres)

Double-A Northeast

Northeast Division
Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets)
Hartford Yard Goats (Rockies)
New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Blue Jays)
Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox)
Reading Fightin Phils (Phillies)
Somerset Patriots (Yankees)*

Southwest Division
Akron RubberDucks (Indians)
Altoona Curve (Pirates)
Bowie Baysox (Orioles)
Erie SeaWolves (Tigers)
Harrisburg Senators (Nationals)
Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants)

Double-A South

North Division
Birmingham Barons (White Sox)
Chattanooga Lookouts (Reds)
Rocket City Trash Pandas (Angels)
Tennessee Smokies (Cubs)

South Division
Biloxi Shuckers (Brewers)
Mississippi Braves (Braves)
Montgomery Biscuits (Rays)
Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Marlins)

HIGH-A

High-A Central

East Division
Dayton Dragons (Reds)
Fort Wayne TinCaps (Padres)
Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers)
Lake County Captains (Indians)
Lansing Lugnuts (A’s)
West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers)

West Division
Beloit Snappers (Marlins)
Cedar Rapids Kernels (Twins)
Peoria Chiefs (Cardinals)
Quad Cities River Bandits (Royals)
South Bend Cubs (Cubs)
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Brewers)

High-A East

North Division
Aberdeen IronBirds (Orioles)
Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets)
Hudson Valley Renegades (Yankees)
Jersey Shore BlueClaws (Phillies)
Wilmington Blue Rocks (Nats)

South Division
Asheville Tourists (Astros)
Bowling Green Hot Rods (Rays)
Greensboro Grasshoppers (Pirates)
Greenville Drive (Red Sox)
Hickory Crawdads (Rangers)
Rome Braves (Braves)
Winston-Salem Dash (White Sox)

High-A West

Eugene Emeralds (Giants)
Everett AquaSox (Mariners)
Hillsboro Hops (D-backs)
Spokane Indians (Rockies)
Tri-City Dust Devils (Angels)
Vancouver Canadians (Blue Jays)

LOW A

Low-A East

Central Division
Carolina Mudcats (Brewers)
Down East Wood Ducks (Rangers)
Fayetteville Woodpeckers (Astros)
Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (White Sox)

North Division
Delmarva Shorebirds (Orioles)
Fredericksburg Nationals (Nationals)
Lynchburg Hillcats (Indians)
Salem Red Sox (Red Sox)

South Division
Augusta GreenJackets (Braves)
Charleston RiverDogs (Rays)
Columbia Fireflies (Royals)
Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs)

Low-A Southeast

East Division
Daytona Tortugas (Reds)
Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlins)
Palm Beach Cardinals (Cardinals)
St. Lucie Mets (Mets)

West Division
Bradenton Marauders (Pirates)
Clearwater Threshers (Phillies)
Dunedin Blue Jays (Blue Jays)
Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (Twins)
Lakeland Flying Tigers (Tigers)
Tampa Tarpons (Yankees)

Low-A West

North Division
Fresno Grizzlies (Rockies)
Modesto Nuts (Mariners)
San Jose Giants (Giants)
Stockton Ports (A’s)

South Division
Inland Empire 66ers (Angels)
Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres)
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Dodgers)
Visalia Rawhide (D-backs)



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  1. IronPigs and R-Phils: 2021 Schedules “A Bumpy Ride”

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