An Empty Stadium, A Delayed Season, and A Loyal Fanbase: 12 SportsZone Conversation with Black Bears GM Matt Drayer

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GRANVILLE, W.Va. – Thursday June 18 would’ve marked the start of the 2020 season for the West Virginia Black Bears. However, COVID-19 has delayed the start of this season for at least the time being.

I spoke with Black Bears General Manager, Matthew Drayer, on Friday about the season being delayed and what it means for the organization.

Even before the season was officially delayed by the New York-Penn League on Friday, Monongalia County Ballpark has been empty since March — no players, coaches or fans — leaving the ballpark way too quiet for this time of year.

“It’s quiet. It’s eerie. There’s no noise. There’s no excitement, or the energy, especially when you have a new group of players who are going to be your team for this year. And it’s just not happening,” Drayer said.  

Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that fans will be inside Monongalia County Ballpark anytime soon.

Not only is the season delayed, but Minor League Baseball’s Jeff Lantz has told us previously that minor league teams won’t play at all if fans can’t be in attendance. And Drayer knows how important the fans are.

“We’re not the major leagues, we don’t have a billion dollar TV contract. The only way we’re generating revenue is from sponsors, season ticket holders, and walk-up tickets, concessions and some merchandise. So you start cutting those lines of revenue. Even if they said, we’re going to play a season (but) you can’t play in front of fans, there’s no chance for us to make it economically on bit,” Drayer said. 

Luckily for Drayer and West Virginia, the Black Bears fanbase has always shown its support of the team.

“We always wondered coming into such a WVU-loved fan base, are we going to be welcomed into that fan base? And it started from day one. So, I love the fact how much the community has came back and supported the Black Bears. We had a lot of great things planned, or still planned, for the 2020 season,” said Drayer.

He does remain hopeful, though, that the 2020 NYPL season is played.

“You start seeing how things are starting to get back to normal, and things are opening, and the progress in our state, progress in other states. You don’t want to say, well it’s probably not going to happen. You see the light at the end of the tunnel, so hopefully things can change and have a little bit of a delay and maybe we can start having baseball back soon,” said Drayer.

And if things do improve, and this season can be played, Drayer says he and his team are ready.

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