For LGBTQ minor league baseball fans wondering whether they’ll get to experience a Pride Night in 2021, the official response is “Answer unclear. Ask again later.” But in a hopeful way.
The fate of minor league Pride Nights is contingent with teams finalizing their 2021 schedules and setting their promotions accordingly. But just last week, MiLB’s AAA teams announced that they would be delaying the opening of their seasons by a month and start in early May.
Now, after the past year we’ve all lived through, it’d be understandable to assume something has gone wrong, change the final digit on all of our 2020 jokes, and sigh. However, according to MLB.com’s Thomas Harrigan, “the delay of the Triple-A season increases the chance that players will be able to get vaccinated before the start of the season, as the Covid-19 vaccine continues to be rolled out throughout the country.”
Which could conceivably make this the happiest delay of game since 2016 World Series Game 7. Even for fans from Ohio.
Reflecting on the role scheduling uncertainty has played, MiLB Senior Director of Communications Jeff Lantz told Outsports, “A lot of the teams really just got their schedules a couple weeks ago. That’s been one of the challenges they’ve faced this spring so far booking all the different promotions and events that they have.”
As to when we might hear teams announce dates for 2021 Pride Nights, Lantz estimated, “I think they’re probably building their promotional calendars right now and I think most of the teams will start announcing different events in the next couple of weeks leading into Opening Day.”
One such team is the Hartford Yard Goats, AA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. In an e-mail to Outsports, Hartford General Manager Mike Abramson revealed, “We are working on our promotional calendar, but have not released anything. We will have at least one Pride Night...hopefully more. After this year, a return to multiple nights for sure.”
In most years where the world isn’t brought to a stand-still by a raging pandemic, minor league teams would typically receive their next season’s schedule in late August. That gives marketing and promotions departments an entire offseason to plan big events like Pride celebrations, which are usually announced in February.
This is another instance where the AAA delay offers some hidden good news, as Lantz believed that “it gives them an extra month to get everything ready to roll again.”
Complicating matters further, minor league teams are still unsure of how long it will take their local governments to ease attendance restrictions for baseball games. Lantz hoped that pushing back the season by a month would offer a window for more fans to get vaccinated and eventually allow for the possibility of big promotions like Pride to safely take place over the summer.
While that’s obviously still to be determined, the mere fact that we’re talking about Pride Nights that COULD happen in 2021 feels like a tremendous step forward. And if things work out to the point where we’re congregate as a community at the ballpark this summer, that will be one more huge reason to celebrate Pride this summer.