Champless Summer: Lake Monsters Season Is Officially Called Off
It's official. There will be no Minor League Baseball this summer, and that means the Vermont Lake Monsters will not be playing at Centennial Field in Burlington this year.
The team, which is affiliated with the Oakland A's organization, has also been listed among the minor league clubs that could lose their connection with Major League Baseball under a future contract.
VPR's Henry Epp spoke to Lake Monsters General Manager Joe Doud. Their interview is below, and it has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Henry Epp: So what was your reaction when you found out that there would not be a season this year?
Joe Doud: Upsetting. You know, it's a bummer. I think our season officially had been delayed indefinitely, as we were supposed to open on June 18. So I think it wasn't a giant shock given COVID-19 in both the national and of course statewide implications and the guidelines and whatnot. You know, it certainly is a bummer, for lack of a better term.
Well, so now that the season is officially not happening, what does that mean for the Lake Monster's finances? Are you going to be able to stay afloat till next season?
Yeah. You know, it's certainly — it's an unprecedented time for sure. Minor League Baseball has been around, I believe, since the early 1900s. I think it's 1901. This is the first season that's ever not happened, essentially. I think we're gonna to be in good shape here, certainly.
We've really shifted a lot of our focuses to the things that we can control and are able to, you know, still bring in some revenue. So our merchandise sales have actually been phenomenal. We've had incredible both local and national support on that.
And now that this announcement is official, we've been working certainly also a little bit more quietly about looking at other ways to use the facility and our resources. And we hope here within the next week or so to have some stuff rolled out to the public.
So, you know, there won't be baseball. But we're certainly staying busy.
And what would that look like? I mean, can you say what ways you could use the facilities that could bring in revenue?
I'm not there yet, but definitely some fun stuff.
And in terms of your staff, are you able to pay your staff this summer?
Yeah, so we have local ownership, who has been fantastic through this whole thing. We're one of the few teams in the industry who've been able to maintain our staff.
The Lake Monsters have been on a list of teams that could lose their affiliation with the major leagues. What would that mean for the Lake Monsters if if that affiliation was lost?
You know, it would be unfortunate, that's for sure. Those conversations are still ongoing. Basically, the agreement ends at the end of September. I don't really have a lot on that just because nothing has been finalized.
And those conversations have been a little bit on hold. Everybody is trying to kind of focus on the short term. And I'm gonna guess those conversations would start back up at some point here. But we're hoping for the best.
Well, I guess just given the uncertainty around that issue, as well as the loss of this season, how confident do you feel in the longer-term future of the Lake Monsters being in Burlington?
Yeah, I mean, it's really hard to say. You know, with with those negotiations, again, because they're ongoing, I think the challenge is that, unless you're at the table, it's really hard to speculate on what's being said or not being said.
Major League Baseball has very publicly stated that there's a plan for — there's 160 minor league baseball teams across the country — and there's a plan for all 160 of those markets. You have baseball, certainly. So, again, I really don't know. I really can't comment on what the long term may look like.
But just based on on what Major League Baseball has said, I think there will be some sort of plan.
Finally, Joe, looking forward to this summer, obviously, without baseball in Burlington. What will you miss most about not having a normal baseball season at Centennial Field this year?
Kind of everything, I guess. That's a tough one. You know, Burlington and Vermont certainly is small, it's a very small state. It's a very small community. We play 38 home games as part of our schedule, and we're doing about 85,000 fans over the course of those 38 games in a two-and-a-half month window. It is a fair amount of people who come through the gates as far as the size of the state and certainly the size of the community.
It's tough to have spent the whole offseason working towards that and, you know, lining up our our giveaways and promotional schedule and all that kind of back end work that goes into the season. And then from the community side, again, there are a lot of fans, both who are more consistent season ticket holders and our mini-plan holders and, you know, host families and whatnot who come out to a fair amount of our games.
But also there's a lot of fans who, every year, it's their first game with their child or grandchild maybe, and it's their first time at Centennial and the first time experiencing professional baseball. And those people I, of course, feel bad for, too. Because it's a massive void.
It's gonna be a pretty big hole this summer as far as filling people's time. So it's sad on all ends, and I'm sad internally for our office and our staff here. But certainly, I sympathize with all of our fans and people who are going to miss Lake Monsters games this summer.