Kudos To The Pensacola Blue Wahoos

by Davis Allen

Well this is a hell of a time to start an opinion blog on sports. I’ve been doing radio now for three years. Sports radio for at least 2 and a half, and I’ve loved every step of the way. So why start a sports blog now after working in media for three years, doing a college football podcast for 2 years (S/O to the College Football Extravaganza), and being an athlete for majority of my life would I finally start a sports opinion blog during a time where there are barely any sports? Thank the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. A team I’ve become very familiar with these last two years. I’ve gotta hand it to them. Baseball put on hold? Okay let’s open up our stadium like a grocery store and sell our food. No people in-house due to COVID? Okay let’s offer curbside service. People can now start mingling in small capacities? Okay let’s host movie and trivia nights. Cannot have actually Blue Wahoos games on the field? Okay let’s host the Pensacola Men’s League, and while we’re at it, frisbee golf is big around here so let’s add a frisbee golf course on the weekends. Need a place to stay? HERE’S OUR FREAKING STADIUM ON AIRBNB! I applaud the ingenuity. Mostly, I thank you for being open-minded and doing whatever it takes to pay your employees.

The sports world has been turned upside-down ever since March 11th, when the Utah Jazz/Oklahoma City Thunder game was abruptly postponed before tip-off due to Rudy Gobert’s positive diagnosis of COVID-19. Things have never been the same since. Then there’s the inevitable domino effect. March madness? Cancelled. The Masters? Rescheduled. PGA season? NBA Season? NHL? MLB? NASCAR? All dramatically changed. Am I missing anything? It’s weird looking back now that it all has settled. It feels like this has been going on for years.

Of course, I need to mention that despite my frustration as a sports fan that this all occurred, this is still a serious matter that needs our complete attention. As of right now, over 100,000 people have died as a result of this deadly virus. Thankfully, most of those who have had the virus are now recovered or are recovering. Still, we are a long way from normal. Today, we are baby-stepping our way back to doing the things we love. Restaurants are open to 50% capacity. Hotels may have guests again to a limited capacity. The beach is fully open for us to enjoy again.

Now, we’re still missing certain mainstays. No parades. No festivals. No bars. And no baseball. Well no professional baseball at least. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos have done beyond-impressive things to keep business going and to keep the Pensacola community entertained, but at the end of the day, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos are taking a devastating hit. I attended yesterday’s media event on the Airbnb. Feels like it’s been an eternity since I’ve last attended a media event in person. The place looks great, but I’ll be honest…. I wasn’t there to talk about the Airbnb. Where are the Blue Wahoos in terms of revenue compared to last year? That’s great the employees are getting paid, but what about the players? To answer the first question, Jonathan Griffith, President of the Blue Wahoos, said they project to make 20% of what their original projection was heading into the season. They believe that by the end of the season, they will have lost $3,000,000 in potential sales. Damn. Just damn. And keep in mind, there is always something happening there, but that goes to show what ticket, food, and merchandise sales mean to the day-to-day operations of a professional baseball team. Now what about the players? According to Griffith, the Minnesota Twins have committed to paying their minor leaguers through June. As of today, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that the Twins have committed to paying their minor leaguers through the end of August, which is typically when the minor league season would end. That’s a great move. It was also unfortunate timing that just yesterday, numerous minor leaguers have been cut due to the financial impact of COVID-19. At this moment, I’m unaware if any Blue Wahoos were released.

Last Saturday, I interviewed Griffith on my weekly sports radio show, SportsCall with Davis and Justin, on ESPN Pensacola 1330AM and 99.1FM (sorry but if I can plug, I’ll plug). I asked him what the possibility of any kind of 2020 season looks like. It was simple. We have to start in July or there’s no baseball. That already looks like a stretch. First, let’s look at the Majors. The MLBPA will not agree to a reduced salary lower than the prorated salaries they already agreed on, and there seems to be no movement on an agreed time to start the MLB season. I’ll have to write another blog post to share my thoughts on that whole scenario. No MLB surely means no MiLB.

Now remember, Griffith said no baseball if it doesn’t start in July. The MLB owners and the Players’ Association COULD come to an agreement to start sometime in July with some spring training in June. That does not guarantee a minor league start. The minor leagues are still their own operating body that has a deal with the MLB. Right now, money is tight, if not already gone. There is almost no way for a team to recover what could’ve been made. If there’s one that could be close, that team’s located in Pensacola, FL. Financially, it’s hard to see all teams being able to field a team. And now add in the multiple reports that state players are being released from their organizations.

So now the real question: Will there be Blue Wahoos Baseball this season? No. It hurts, but I cannot see it being a reality. Even if the Blue Wahoos finances are in order and they can field a team, there is no guarantee that their opponents can. I will say this, however… I would love to be wrong.

On the bright side: Maybe I’ll have a better chance at booked a few nights with some friends at Blue Wahoos Stadium, given that all of the current dates are booked. Griffin did also state that the stadium will stay on Airbnb during the offseason.

The thoughts and views expressed on this blog are those of Davis Allen.

If you would like to reach out to Davis, you may email him at dallen@espnpensacola.com.