Your roadmap for the 2021 baseball season
by Kevin Reichard with www.baseballdigest.com
In a normal year, MLB, MiLB, indy and summer-collegiate teams would have been planning for their season openers and campaign game plans for months now. But we are not in a normal year. Here’s a look at what to expect in the 2021 season.
Here’s a rough approximation of what will happen this season, barring COVID-19-related delays and cancelations. Here are the big dates on the calendar:
February 19: NCAA Division I baseball season launches. Most conferences and warm-weather universities are planning to launch the season with a limited number of fans in the stands, but other major conference, like the Big 10, have not announced schedules or operating procedures.
February 16-17: MLB pitchers and catchers will report to training camp, with position players to follow. Despite an assertion by MLB that these dates are firm, there are rumblings we could see a later start to a compressed spring training, with the regular season beginning as planned on April 1. The advantages to a compressed spring training: a later start gives the medical system more time to bring down positivity rates (and they are going down, by some 20 percent in the last week), and the regular season is unaffected, addressing player concerns about salaries and service-time issues. Spring training, by the way, will be run in shifts, with MLB and AAA players reporting to camp on time, and AA/A players later.
February 26: Grapefruit and Cactus League games begin. Again, despite an assertion by MLB that these dates are firm, there are rumblings we could see a later start to a compressed spring training, with the regular season beginning as planned on April 1.
April 1: MLB season begins. Still to be determined: where the Toronto Blue Jays play if the U.S.-Canada border remains restricted. Dunedin’s TD Ballpark appears to be the early, temporary solution.
Week of April 5: Triple-A season begins.
Early April: AA/A players report to Florida and Arizona training camps. Still to be determined: whether this will be strictly a camp exercise or whether games will be held in MLB spring-training ballparks with fans in attendance.
May 4: Beginning of AA and A 120-game seasons. No schedules yet, and some debates still happening between MLB and MiLB owners over issues like how holidays are to be scheduled (July 4, traditionally a huge fireworks night, is on a Sunday this year, and Sundays call for afternoon games per MLB guidelines). No word on how and there the Vancouver Canadians will play if the U.S.-Canada border remains restricted.
May 22-28: Major independent baseball leagues launch play, including the Pioneer League (May 22) and the Atlantic League (May 28). We don’t have a final slate of teams in the American Association or the Frontier League, however, and we don’t know how the Canadian teams in the Frontier League will play if the U.S.-Canada border remains restricted.
May 27-June 3: Most major summer-collegiate leagues, including the Coastal Plain League (May 27), Prospect League (May 27), Northwoods League (May 31) and Appalachian League (June 3), begin play.
June 19: College World Series begins.
Will these dates hold? While there were plenty of hiccups along the way, by and large the 2020 MLB schedule held firm, as did the 2020 NFL season, although the 2020 NCAA football season did not. Yes, the advice is the same–with COVID-19, things can change quickly–but with declining positivity rates and increased vaccinations reaching more citizens, there’s general optimism that the 2021 baseball season will run according to schedule. Knock on wood.