It seems as though Trinidad will have to wait another year before heading out to enjoy one of America’s most iconic pastimes. Pecos League-owned Triggers’ General Manager Kimberly Schultz stated in an interview with The Chronicle-News on Wednesday, April 15 that the Pecos League would be announcing they would essentially be cancelling the 2020 season.
The Trinidad Triggers, the town’s minor league baseball team established in May of 2012 as part of the Pecos League, has grown to be an integral part of the entertainment offered within the community. Many locals and visitors look forward to the games and other associated entertainment such as the Fourth of July festivities that happen annually.
Schultz echoed sports industry representatives across the globe stating she was sad to have to hold off, but added she understood the necessity of being cautious.
“It bums me out,” said Schultz. “We had a great team lined out. I’ve been grappling with this since everything began and just like all of sports right now from little league to Major League, it’s affecting everybody.”
Sports teams, especially semi-pro and collegiate teams, traditionally spend a lot of time in close proximity to one another with travel and living accommodations and Schultz said this was something not to be taken lightly.
“I’ve taken the health piece of this very seriously because I’ve got 30 bodies that I’ve got to take care of for months and they’re very communal,” said Schultz. “They’re traveling together or staying in hotel rooms so social distancing is not even applicable here.”
The health of her players has been at the top of her priorities not just since the outbreak of COVID-19, but from the very beginning.
“I learned right out of the gate the first year that these boys could get sick and they did that year and everybody had the flu,” said Schultz. “So from that point on, I buy sanitizer by the case, literally. With the ballpark facility alone, there’s no sinks or washing facilities in the locker rooms. We rely on the public restrooms there, which consist of about eight bathroom stalls and four hand sinks. With the social distancing piece and the fact that there’s no answers to this, quite frankly the buck stops with me as far as running this team and the liability is extreme.”
With the season leaving seats empty this year, Schultz said she’s shifting her focus to preparing for the future. Next season will be the Trigger’s tenth year and hopes are that the team can continue well into the future. But Schultz explained that even before the pandemic, it has been at times difficult.
“Even in a regular season without all these threats to the economy it’s been tough to sustain the program and thank God for the generous community that we live in, whether they’re sponsors or hosts or meal sponsors or whatever it looks like,” said Schultz. “In any given year, I’m looking at a good $75,000 price tag easily.
“I ran the numbers this year before this crisis and I still had a gap of about $18,000 that I didn’t know how I was going to fill because based upon historical data that I had, audience numbers, etc., the money’s not coming in. In past years I’ve been able to pull a rabbit out of my hat and rely on the community at large to get us through.”
In an effort to keep the team funded, Schultz, like many rural businesses, has begun the process of obtaining non-profit status. This would allow her access to additional means of supporting Trinidad’s semi-pro team and help to ensure the team’s longevity.
“I’m currently trying to finalize our non-profit designation with the Federal Government,” said Schultz. “Once that happens, fingers crossed, I will have one more way to sustain the whole operation as a non-profit. With all that, it’s very promising that we could have a very sustainable operation.”
Many other semi-pro teams out there are experiencing similar struggles, according to Schultz, and she added that of the 180 minor league teams across America, half of them may not make it out the other side of this. While some of the reasoning for this may have to do with the current economic downturn, much of the problem came before the first Coronavirus case even surfaced.
“We’re feeling it hard and it started a few years back when the Feds changed how we pay players,” said Schultz. “They eliminated the American Pass-time Act that went back to 1932 that stated baseball players could be paid seasonally as entertainment. After that ruling, baseball players have to be paid minimum wage on 40 hours a week through the season. That’s financially impossible, not just for us but many teams across the country. So you’re going to start to see a huge attrition of minor league baseball teams going away.”
Schultz said she would continue doing everything in her power to keep the team from meeting a similar fate and expressed how thankful she was that the city has made it clear they want to keep the Triggers around.
“The city has been amazing and wants the team here,” said Schultz. “They’ve always done everything in their power to make sure we had baseball.”
Now, turning focus to next year, the continued success of the Triggers rests in people being ready to get out and watch the game.
“Hopefully we’ve got butts in the seats next year and we’re able to move forward and there’ll be answers on how this health crisis is going to be addressed,” said Schultz. “Our best case scenario would be to plan, raise money, and look at how we’re going to do business and conduct the season next year.”