The Frisco RoughRiders’ remaining home games of the 2020 Texas Collegiate League season will be closed to the public, President and General Manager Andy Milovich said. Those include homestands against the Tulsa Drillers and Texarkana Twins this week and a three-game set against the Amarillo Sod Dogs July 31-Aug. 2.
“We had incredibly high hopes to give these kids a chance to play some great college baseball in front of an enthusiastic crowd that was excited to get back to normal,” Milovich said. “To have to change course and eliminate that, from a community perspective, from a business perspective and from the player's perspective was certainly disappointing.”
The Frisco franchise was granted a temporary expansion team in the Texas Collegiate League last month and started its season June 30 with a three-game series in Tulsa, Okla. That series and the rest of the team’s road games have been played before limited-capacity crowds, Milovich said.
When the expansion team was announced in June, Milovich said state guidelines would cap attendance at 50% capacity with social distancing measures in place. For Dr Pepper Ballpark, that would translate to maximum crowds of 4,000-4,500 fans, he said.
A coronavirus outbreak among the RoughRiders’ front office staff caused the team to cancel its July 3-5 series at Dr Pepper Ballpark and close the July 7-9 series to the public.
“They're excited to be playing baseball and have a chance to get on a field,” Milovich said of the RoughRiders’ players, who are current collegiate athletes. “They're incredibly appreciative that we were able to continue the course and give them a chance to play this summer, even without fans at the home ballpark.”
Since the outbreak among staff, Milovich said the team’s front office has remained closed, but everyone has continued to work remotely.
“We just, out of an abundance of caution and given what we've been through, decided it was safest to keep everybody working at home,” he said.
On June 30, it was announced that the RoughRiders’ regular Minor League Baseball season had been canceled this year. Major League Baseball said it would not provide affiliated Minor League teams with players for the season.
Milovich said he expects the RoughRiders and sports teams throughout the country will learn a lot from the upcoming openings of Major League Baseball and the other sports leagues ahead of Frisco's 2021 season.
“I think the sports entertainment experience is going to continue to evolve based on what we learn about this virus, the pandemic and how to prepare in a way that meets the expectations and the safety needs for the public at large,” Milovich said.
The Frisco franchise reported 455,765 fans during home games last year and finished first in attendance among all 30 Double-A teams in Minor League Baseball for the 15th year in a row.