Going into the 2020 season, Minor League Baseball had scheduled a staggering 81 teams hosting 85 Pride Nights throughout the summer. Unfortunately, they’ll be holding none.
On Tuesday, as expected, Minor League Baseball announced that this season has been canceled. According to MiLB’s official release, Major League Baseball “will not be providing its affiliated Minor League teams with players for the 2020 season.”
With COVID-19 continuing to ravage the entire country, it’s a sad but understandable decision on MiLB’s part. There are a staggering 12 minor league teams in the hotspot state of Florida alone, as well as 10 in California and six in Texas. The risk is simply too great to play.
What makes this news especially disappointing is that this season was shaping up to be MiLB’s best yet when it came to expanding its Pride Night initiative: the Hartford Yard Goats planned a record 3 Pride Nights for 2020; the Daytona Tortugas had two on their schedule — one for residents, one for college students. But setting a new industry record for the total number of promotions wasn’t the only reason this summer would have been MiLB’s best yet, in terms of Pride.
A couple months ago, I spoke with former MiLB Specialist for Diversity and Inclusion Ben Pereira for the 3 Strikes, You’re Out podcast. He illustrated how minor league teams were leading the way by holding Pride celebrations in very non-traditional markets:
“It was some of the more rural conservative [cities] that actually did better. And that’s because in those markets, the community might not always feel seen. It might not always have those opportunities where they can go out and celebrate being their authentic selves.
“If you’re in Brooklyn, you’ve got a hundred bars to go to and Pride Nights and Pride celebrations every weekend in the summer in New York City. You don’t necessarily feel the need to go to the Cyclones game to feel recognized. But if you’re in Daytona, that might be one of the few events. If you’re in Missoula, that might be one of the few events. If you’re in Tulsa, that might be one of the few events.”
The cancellation of the minor league season is understandable. But it’s also taking away Pride celebrations from communities where every supportive gesture is especially meaningful. As if to further illustrate this, Pereira also shared that 2020 was going to see the first Pride Night game where both home and away teams would be decked out in Pride-themed jerseys—and that it was taking place in the Deep South.
There is a small bright spot to counteract all the bad news. One of the most noteworthy Pride Nights on the 2020 schedule was going to take place in Pulaski, Virginia—a small rural town in the Appalachian Mountains. Not exactly West Hollywood. And even though it was canceled, the Pulaski Yankees made it clear that they were committed to bringing Pride to their community:
One big reason to look forward to turning the calendar on everything going on right now is the opportunity to see Pulaski get the Pride Night they deserve and help #StrikeOutHate in their hometown. Now all we need to do is #StrikeOut2020.