The Heat Death of the Minor League Season

The Heat Death of the Minor League Season
CMC-NorthEast Ballpark, home of the Kannapolis Intimidators (Matt Cassidy / FutureSox)

Everything comes to an end. It’s reassuring to think about when it comes to bad things - eventually, this will all be over and we can look back on it - and depressing when it comes to the good. Time grinds it all down to a stop. Sometimes it’s a blessing, sometimes it’s a tragedy. In baseball, it’s often some of both.

For those who work in the minor leagues, the season can pass in a five-month nonstop frenzy of activity while simultaneously lasting for eight thousand years. There are cycles of activity within the season itself, with the dreamlike haze of lengthy homestands and harsh return to reality in between, but the machine never stops running.

Until early September, when all too soon, the last game is played (for non-playoff-bound teams) and instead of gearing up for the weekend’s series and thinking about upcoming theme night preparation, there is suddenly nothing. It doesn’t even taper down, a nine-inning game one night, seven the next, five, down until finally it’s one batter versus one pitcher with everything riding on the outcome. It just stops. If you travel to the end of the universe, you might find the same thing: nothing but particles and silence.

So… then what? How do you go from 15+ major events a month to one or two at most? How do you go from a ballpark that’s full of players and fans and activity to one that’s quiet and cold and overcast (because even when it’s sunny in the offseason, it’s overcast)?

First, existential despair. There isn’t a lot to do the first few days after the season ends but exhale. Going from 100 miles per hour to one or two can be jarring. It’s raining! It doesn’t matter, the tarp stays rolled up. It’s five o’clock! Gates don’t open in half an hour, it’s time to go home. No, you can’t go hang out with the gameday staff, they’re not here.

Luckily, it doesn’t take too long before things start to ramp up again, at least a little. Sometime in the fall, the front office will get together and start planning out the next season. Abstract ideas and “wouldn’t it be cool if…?”s crystallize into promotions and theme nights. Everyone goes over what went well over the last year and what could be improved.

In addition to the planning, every month after September until April has at least one holiday around which events can be planned: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day. When your primary product is not offered for about seven months out of the year, you start getting creative: ticket offers, mascot events, ballpark dinners, anything to remind fans that you’re still there.

As January and February roll around, things start to move ahead full bore: group and season ticket sales pick up steam, as do sponsorships and off-day event planning. Promo closets and mascot rooms get cleaned up, graphics for the upcoming season are created, and almost as suddenly as there weren’t, there are things to promote.

In between all this, of course, is the soulless, crushing winter. It stretches on and on. There is nothing more depressing than pulling up to a ballpark while it’s snowing. It’s enough to drive you into a mascot suit, where at least it’s warm.

And then, finally, spring begins. Players report to Spring Training! Interns are hired! Roster speculation runs rampant! Single-game tickets go on sale! There’s probably still a blizzard at some point! How did this all sneak up on us so quickly?? This happens every year.

So after months of slow days and recovering from the season before, March and April inject new life into the offseason death slog. It doesn’t matter how good your team is supposed to be or how many top prospects are on it. The day they arrive means baseball is back, and it’s time for five months of total insanity. It’s good, it’s bad, and before too long it’ll end. But before too long it’ll begin again.

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Filed under: The Silo

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