Games uncertain this year...

A Bluefield Blue Jays runner slides home as the Princeton Rays catcher awaits the throw during an Appalachian League game in 2019. The Appy League playing this year rests on the MLB and the players agreeing to a deal to start the big league season which remain uncertain.

The stage is set for competition this summer at Bowen Field-Peters Park and at Hunnicutt Field in Princeton.

There’s a problem, though.

The fate of minor league baseball is inextricably tied to decisions not being made day after day by Major League Baseball and its players.

With a detestable disregard of the fact that the calendar now says June, the squabbling of rich men on both sides of a collective bargaining agreement has dragged on well past the tolerance level of the fans of the sport.

The owners seem prepared to bunt the crucial issues down the baseline, if it takes all summer. That should tell you something about the size of their clubs’ operating cash reservoirs. Daily, they are cutting into their revenue from television contracts, gate receipts, the whole ball of wax — and they don’t seem to care.

The players are hung up on what percentage of their salaries they’ll get paid, swinging for the outfield walls without seeming to understand that the absence of an agreement means that many will get paid nothing in 2020. Zero. Zilch.

The world is well aware by now that the novel coronavirus has trashed plans and schedules, and continues to inject uncertainty into scenarios to reopen parts of our “normal” life.

But NASCAR is getting it done. Professional golf is on the cusp of a re-modified season. The President of the United States wants sports re-started.

Pro baseball can do it, too. With proper testing and monitoring of players and other essential stadium employees — and, alas, with few or no fans on site — the game can go on. Even if all the MLB games are played in Arizona.

A quick resolution means that the annual amateur draft, scheduled to start in about a week, will not be a meaningless academic exercise this year.

But those young men, once signed, have to have a minor-league team to which they can report. And that’s a big problem.

You know how the timetable will shake out. When and if the majors can get their act together, they will insist on at least a couple of weeks of “spring training.” Then more time for deciding where to assign their minor-league hopefuls. Then travel time to get to places like Princeton and Bluefield. Then a couple of practice days to pull those teams together.

The calendar will almost have run out before the Appalachian League umps can yell “Play ball!”

But baseball does need to return, and soon. A nation will turn its back on America’s pastime if the sport stays absent too long. With declining attendance and spotty TV ratings, baseball is in a tough spot as it is.

Those in charge need to stop writing the sport’s epitaph and come to an agreement on a plan. Pronto.

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