On Thursday, MLB released the long-awaited Minor League Baseball schedules for the 2021 season, giving fans something to (tentatively) look forward to.
The schedules are all subject to change as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The pandemic also has had some major effects on the schedule that will be unique for the 2021 season.
Minor League spring training had already announced to be delayed, partially to limit the number of people in camps to limit exposures. Because of this, Triple-A will be starting its season in April along with the Major League teams, and the rest of the minors will start on May 4th. Triple-A West will start on April 8th, while Triple-A East will start on April 6th. All leagues will play through September 19th, except Triple-A West, which will finish on September 21st.
In all, Triple-A teams will play 142 games, while all other levels will play 120.
To limit travel, series between teams will be consistent six game series, and for all but one league, every Monday is an off-day. The only exception is Triple-A West, which chose its off-day to be Wednesdays. Having Mondays as an off-day is an interesting choice for the minors, as Monday is often when “Observed” holidays would be, such as for Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and are usually big attendance games. However, COVID-19 limitations would probably have limited those attendance numbers regardless this year.
The minors will also be missing two big staples: All-Star Games and Playoffs. Canceling the latter means all teams can continue playing later, hopefully to give all teams more chance at getting ticket sale revenue in these cash-strapped times. All-Star Games would have been exposure risks, and would have complicated the schedule-making.
It is hoped that 2022 will result in a return to normalcy across the minors.
The Sacramento River Cats will open their 2021 season on the road, starting in Albuquerque on April 8th. They will make their home debut against a brand new Triple-A team, the Sugar Land Skeeters, Houston’s new affiliate. Link
The Richmond Flying Squirrels will open up their season at home on May 4th, facing off against the Hartford Yard Goats. Link
The San Jose Giants will open up at home as well, facing off against their new California League rivals, the Fresno Grizzlies. The former Giants Triple-A team has returned to the California League, It’s the first year the city of Fresno has been in the California League since the Fresno Suns played in 1988. The Giants were a Single-A affiliate with Fresno as well from 1958 through 1987, when the Giants switched their affiliation to San Jose. Link
The Eugene Emeralds will open their season on the road, visiting the Spokane Indians on May 4th. They’ll come home and make their first home opener as a Giants affiliate on May 11th against the Hillsboro Hops. Link
Game times for the 2021 season have not yet been announced.