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Minor league baseball hit hard, Missions continue to find their way through the pandemic

Optimism is waning on the 2020 Minor League Baseball season.

SAN ANTONIO — With Major League Baseball owners in a stalemate with its players on returning to action, Minor League Baseball is hurting tremendously, right now.

San Antonio Missions, included.

In Major League Baseball, we are dealing with extremely affluent owners who have various revenue streams with their professional teams. Minor League Baseball is a bit different.

We often forget these are small businesses relying almost solely on fans entering the ballpark.

"Our revenue comes from attendance and having people in the stands, buying tickets and buying concessions," Missions president Burl Yarbrough said. "For us, without having games with fans, it just doesn't work business wise."

San Antonio applied for, and earned, its Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. That gives the organization an eight week stipend. Any money is helpful, of course, but the last Missions home game was on August 25, 2019. The team is looking at roughly 19 months without baseball at Wolff Stadium.

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"Three weeks away from the opener (in 2020) we had almost everything ready to go," Yarbrough, who has been with the Missions since 1987, said. "We had a whole offseason of expenses. We have a five month period to have revenue. Our games are April through August."

This has been painful from the top-down. 

Using the Missions as an example, roughly 30 percent of full-time staff has been let go (went from 30 to 21). Also, salaries of those remaining have been cut substantially. You will find similar stories across Minor League Baseball. 

The players are getting hit hard, too. Hundreds of ballplayers, with their $400 per week salaries, have been released.

"It's going to be a devastating year if we have no games, no doubt about it," Yarbrough said. "We will figure out a way to survive. We'll look at other events we can hopefully do here at Wolff Stadium at some point during the year and maybe look at some other ways to come up with some revenue, (but) it's going to be a devastation for us to go a whole year without having any games."

Major League baseball was already looking to consolidate the minor leagues, anyway. So the landscape of Minor League Baseball was changing. The good news is San Antonio is not a city currently on the chopping block. 

Affiliations and leagues could change in the future, but the Missions should be good to go once everything is calibrated. San Antonio has had a team since 1888 and Yarbrough wants the fan base to remain positive.

"We're really looking forward to the day when things can get back to normal. We know this is affecting somebody in some form or fashion. We feel it and we feel what everyone else is going through, but we know we'll get through it and like I say, we'll have baseball again and the sooner the better."