SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Cardinals haven’t played a game since late 2019, but General Manager Dan Reiter says the conversations about its return have become more positive.
When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020, that forced their season to be canceled, and Springfield was used as an alternate site to host the “taxi squad” for the MLB affiliate St. Louis Cardinals.
Reiter says recently, conversations with the league have pointed towards Minor League teams returning to the field in a matter of months.
“The last week and a half there’s been more positive phone calls than I’ve had over the last six months. I think the conversation has switched from if there will be baseball to when there will be baseball,” Reiter says.
While nothing has been made official quite yet, Reiter says teams have been told to expect baseball, and be ready for baseball. The staff at Hammons Field has been preparing for that likelihood.
“I was just on a call talking about how we are going to seat people socially distanced, what kind of technology do we need to have in there, how can we make fans feel safe. Those conversations feel great to have, and they feel like they matter,” says Reiter.
Reiter says no start date has been confirmed, but he anticipating a later start than usual.
“Obviously it’s a moving target with the vaccine, and making sure that the players, fans, and staff are healthy,” says Reiter. “We’re not expecting to have games here in April. That might change, but that doesn’t hurt my feelings. If we started on May 1, I would be thrilled,” Reiter says.
The feeling is that every team will open with limited capacity, with the optimism to get more and more fans in as the summer goes on.
It’s been over 500 days since the last pitch was thrown in a Springfield Cardinals game. That was the last time Cardinals Radio Broadcaster Andrew Buchbinder hasn’t been on the air for the team, and he’s ready to get back in the booth.
“It was weird to have a summer without baseball for sure, but we’re very fortunate in large part,” Buchbinder says.
The opportunity was ripe for the staff to get creative, and Buchbinder says that’s exactly what they did through their social media and other fan interaction. Getting fans and the staff back at Hammon’s Field is something he hopes to see very soon.
“I miss the game itself, but honestly maybe more than all of that I just miss the people around the ballpark. I miss seeing our fans, I miss seeing our terrific gameday staff that is such a huge part of our family at the stadium,” says Buchbinder.
The Springfield Cardinals, which are now under the direction of Major League Baseball rather than the Minor League Baseball entity, will await word on when things will be made official.
Springfield has added two teams to their league, and once things are put in place for start times, Reiter says that’s when they can really start to formulate a schedule.