It may be six weeks later than originally planned, but the Coastal Plain League announced Wednesday that if restrictions are lifted by local, state and national government officials, a shortened season will begin July 1 for the 15-team league, including the Asheboro Copperheads.
The Copperheads are now scheduled to open the season at home on July 1 at McCrary Park. It is the first of 21 regular-season home games in the 42-game schedule for the Copperheads, who are beginning their 22nd season in the CPL.
The season was originally scheduled to begin May 28, but safety concerns due to the coronavirus caused the league to postpone the start of the new campaign. The new regular season will now end in the second week of August.
Following is the statement released to the teams Wednesday about the postponement of the season until July:
"The Coastal Plain League has closely monitored the COVID-19 announcements of the Federal, State and Local authorities in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia and has delayed the league's planned 2020 season start until July 1. It is expected that this schedule will allow the league's teams and host cities to properly prepare to give the fans and the country's finest collegiate baseball players a safe and enjoyable environment. We look forward to an exciting 2020 baseball season."
A number of collegiate summer baseball leagues have cancelled the upcoming season. CPL officials, however, decided if government officials lift the restrictions now in place concerning social gatherings, teams will take the proper precautions to assure players, fans, interns and staff will remain safe.
"We are very pleased with the announcement that our season should go forward even though it will be a much later start date than we had originally hoped for," said Doug Pugh, one of the owners of the Copperheads. "These are without question the most trying times that we have all experienced and the CPL waited as long as it possibly could before making a decision to postpone opening day until July 1. There are and were many factors to consider and the most important, naturally, is the safety and health of our fans, players, host families and staff. We plan to work very closely with local health and city officials to ensure that it is a safe environment."
Asheboro coach Keith Ritsche, who has been busy signing some of the top collegiate talent in the country as well as handling general manager duties, said he's excited to know the season will be held.
"Although it's disappointing to not begin the season on time, we look forward to playing an adjusted schedule and getting back to baseball," said Ritsche, the veteran coach. "With that being said, there are plenty of adjustments on the business and coaching side of things that need to be made. We are working with sponsors to re-align dates for their promotional nights and giveaways. We have been keeping in contact with our players and they all are very excited to play in Asheboro this summer. We are very excited about our roster and look forward to a great summer season."
Ritsche said Copperheads front office staff would be calling sponsors and host families over the next few weeks.
Hannah Williams, the team's director of marketing and social media, said she is excited about the start of the new season.
"I am thrilled that we will be getting to see some baseball this summer," she said. "It is going to be a very different, very action-packed time for us, but I couldn't be more excited for the season to begin. Our host families and interns will play a crucial role in helping us navigate through this new dynamic. We could not operate without either of them. I think that we have a great group of guys coming to town this summer and though the season will be different for all of us, I feel that getting somewhat of our so-called normalcy back will make for a much brighter and happier summer for everyone. If we can all learn one thing from our current pandemic situation, it is not to take the little things for granted, especially the ability to play and/or watch the best game in the world: Baseball."
The Copperheads will work with local officials to assure the safety of all fans, players and staff.
"We understand that as we do open our season, we could still experience social distancing and other factors as it relates to having fans in the stadium," Pugh said. "We are getting prepared for those circumstances by looking at our reserved seating charts, obtaining infrared thermometers in order to check the temperatures of all those who enter the stadium and obtaining masks and gloves for all staff and concession workers.
"I would personally like to say a HUGE thank you to all of our fans, host families, sponsors and to the tremendous Copperheads staff for hanging in there during a very difficult time."