With the Canada-U.S. border still closed, the Winnipeg Goldeyes are getting a new temporary home.
After playing last season entirely on the road out of Fargo, N.D., due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Goldeyes will call Jackson, Tenn., home for at least the start of the 2021 season.
“Playing as a road team wasn’t really an option again,” Goldeyes general manager Andrew Collier said. “It’s just not financially viable to do that. So, we started to look around for a ballpark that didn’t have a team and wanted to have baseball this summer.
“We wanted our own spot. We wanted a home away from home. Sharing a ballpark with another team has a lot of difficult issues involved.”
The Fish will play their home games out of The Ballpark at Jackson, which is the usual home of the Jackson Generals. But the team is not playing this year after they recently lost their double-A minor league affiliation.
“It was a great option,” said Collier. “Jackson was one of the 40 minor league teams that lost their affiliation last year. The Ballpark at Jackson was sitting there. A beautiful ballpark ready to go, but no team.
“It’s 100 per cent better than spending the season as a road team, basically living in hotels and not having a home.”
The stadium is a 6,000-seat field that was built in 1998.
“The Jackson Generals are thrilled to host the Goldeyes at The Ballpark at Jackson this summer,” said Generals general manager Marcus Sabata in a media release. “The pandemic has been tough on everyone, so when the opportunity to host Winnipeg arose, we were happy to help out a fellow ball club.
“Although our fans look forward to welcoming the Generals back in 2022, I have no doubt that Jackson will show Winnipeg some true southern hospitality in the meantime.”
The Goldeyes still hope to return to Shaw Park at some point this season when the border has re-opened and health restrictions are relaxed.
“That’s completely out of our hands,” said Collier. “It’s all up to how well Canada gets the vaccine rolled out, get our numbers down, get the border opened up again, and we’ll see where we go.
“When we can safely return to Winnipeg, we’ll be ready to go.”
Collier said about a quarter of the team has already been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and the rest are expected to get theirs on Saturday, so the whole team will be vaccinated prior to coming back to Winnipeg, whenever that will be.
The Goldeyes’ home opener is just two weeks away and having their own stadium in Jackson will allow them to sell tickets and sponsorships after having next to no revenue in the shortened 2020 season. So it’s the perfect plan B for the only Canadian team in the American Association.
The Goldeyes opened training camp on Thursday in Franklin, Wis., which is the home of the American Association’s Milwaukee Milkmen.
Twenty-four players were on the field attempting to crack the squad. They start their pre-season schedule on Saturday and their complete schedule is expected to be released on Friday.
Their first game in Jackson, which will be their home opener, is scheduled for Friday, May 21.