FLORENCE, S.C. – The Florence RedWolves were the first Coastal Plain League team to bow out of an abbreviated 2020 season.
But they certainly weren’t the last, as the COVID-19 pandemic eventually caused eight of the 15 CPL member teams to suspend operations for a year.
“Do I think we made the right decision? Absolutely,” RedWolves General Manager Barbara Osborne said. “Especially given the (positive test) numbers and so forth that are happening in the state and in our area.
"These are kids that are coming in to play and you can say, ‘Hey, on your day off, don’t go down to Myrtle Beach.’ But we don’t keep them locked up in a hotel room or anything, so they could pick up the virus from somewhere and bring it back to their host family.
“And that really was the main reason we decided to cancel the season. We were worried about the health of our players, our coaches, our employees, our host families.”
The CPL had to do a bit of realignment for the remaining seven teams. The Mid-Atlantic Division is now made up of just four teams (High Point-Thomasville, Martinsville, Peninsula, Wilson) and the Southern Division contains just three (Lexington County, Macon, Savannah).
The issue of fans attending games has also been a contentious one in several places, most notably Lexington County. A comment made by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster just a few hours prior to the Blowfish’s home opener resulted in fans being turned away.
The Blowfish have not allowed any fans into games since either.
“It would have been devastating to us financially,” Osborne said if the same thing had happened to the RedWolves. “Then it would have just been terrible in terms of part of baseball and sports is the fans and the noise that’s out there and the excitement of that. I think that helps the players play to their best. It would have been very sad not to have that for them.
“It’s devastating to the teams, but looking at the big picture, what’s more devastating is (COVID-19) and what it does to people.”
Even with no season, the RedWolves have worked on staying engaged with the fans through social media, Osborne said, and have even still put up a jersey to auction off for charity.
“We had one jersey left over from last year’s patriotic game that we auctioned off with a winning bid of $140,” Osborne said. “That will go to Bethlehem Therapeutic Riding Stable to help out the veterans there. It’s a small thing, but it helps. At some point we’re going to have other jerseys put out on social media as well.
“We’re also asking everyone to send in their favorite photos and favorite memories to post, so we’re just trying to keep baseball on everybody’s mind.”