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The Chicago Dogs and the American Association will begin play in July

There will be baseball, with some fans in attendance... near Chicago.

Keon Barnum of the Chicago Dogs (right) crosses the plate after homering July 10, 2019
Al Yellon

Back in April, the American Association, an independent baseball league, announced they were going to try to play an 80-game schedule, with fans in attendance, starting sometime in July.

That won’t happen, but the league will in fact begin a 60-game schedule at three “hub” ballparks, per the Associated Press:

Minnesota’s St. Paul Saints will play home games at Sioux Falls Stadium along with South Dakota’s Sioux Falls Canaries. Manitoba’s Winnipeg Goldeyes will be based at Newman Outdoor Field along with North Dakota’s Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. The Chicago Dogs will play home games at the Ballpark Commons along with the Milwaukee Milkmen.

All three home teams are in position to sell about 25% to 33% of their ballpark’s capacities.

A 60-game regular season is envisioned through Sept. 10, and the top two teams will meet in a best-of-five championship series. Teams will allow limited capacities of spectators, if allowed.

The Ballpark Commons is the home of the Milwaukee Milkmen, located at 7035 N. Ballpark Drive in Franklin, Wisconsin.

Here’s what the Chicago Dogs said about this plan:

Each team will play 42 of their 60 games in their hub to limit travel, with 30 of those 42 being home games while the remaining 12 as the road team against the other team in their hub. The schedule, which will be released on Monday, June 15, will allow any of the three road clubs to return home for games if local governmental restrictions allow for games with fans in attendance.

“Our sincere hope and plan is to play baseball at Impact Field sooner rather than later,” said Dogs Owner Shawn Hunter. “We believe this system is best for the league and for our ability to accomplish our primary goal of entertaining our fans at Impact Field this summer. We appreciate Milwaukee, Sioux Falls and Fargo opening their ballparks for us, St. Paul and Winnipeg.”

It doesn’t seem likely that fans will be permitted at Impact Field in Rosemont, the Chicago Dogs’ home ballpark, before the season concludes on September 10. A five-game championship series between the top two regular-season clubs will follow. The Dogs say an abbreviated “spring training” will begin June 25 and play will start July 3.

July 3. The Friday of a holiday weekend. If only a certain other league had gotten its act together to begin play on or around that date.

The idea of “hub” cities to limit travel is a good one. With games being played only in Milwaukee, Sioux Falls and Fargo, travel between these cities will be fairly easy and will help keep players healthy. If only a certain other league could have come up with such an idea.

Half of the American Association’s teams won’t play in 2020:

Six teams will not operate this season: the Cleburne Railroaders in Texas, Gary SouthShore RailCats in Indiana, Kansas City T-Bones, Lincoln Saltdogs in Nebraska, Sioux City Explorers in Iowa and Texas AirHogs in Prairie.

But, there will be baseball, indy-league style with some fans allowed in attendance, close to Chicago next month. From the American Association’s website:

Each team and stadium will have in place and enforce COVID Readiness Plans, approved by local Health Departments and Government Officials. Stadiums will be configured to return to play with limited capacity in order to allow for safe social distancing while enjoying a live, professional baseball game.

“We are very happy to be able to return professional baseball to our fans, albeit in a different fashion than usual,” said American Association Commissioner Joshua Schaub. “We look forward to opening up our season on July 3 for a summer of high-level professional baseball and bringing America’s Pastime back to the fans.”

Real baseball. Not too far away. Hopefully some of the teams will stream their games online.