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Merchants pull plug on 2020

Baseball and summer are nearly synonymous with one another - when you think of one you think of the other.

If you’re a resident of Abbotsford and Colby, when you think of basbeall, you also think of the Wisconsin Baseball Association (WBA), the Dairyland League and the Abbotsford Merchants.

However, this year Red Arrow Park will mostly be sitting empty until at least the spring 2021 after the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 season was recently made last week.

Not all members of the Dairyland League have cancelled their season, with some teams hoping to play games as early as the weekend of June 13-14. But this year the Dairyland will be without the Merchants after the team opted not to play a full season as concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic linger.

“A combination of things went into the decision,” says Merchants manager and player Neal Hogden. “The COVID-19 outbreak at Abbyland was a little part of the decision, but we ultimately didn’t have the numbers to play an accelerated season.

“I talked with the man behind the scenes, Larry Soyk, and he wasn’t sure the risk was worth the time and stress we would have this season.”

Lack of numbers have been an issue for the Merchants over the past several years, and with worries of fans or players catching the novel coronavirus, several players backed out, leaving Hogden and the Merchants unable to find replacements in time for the 2020 season.

“We’ve struggled in years past with gathering enough players and ultimately thought it was best to take a year off. “

Other teams in the league that will not be playing are the Wausau River Hawks, Tomahawk Titans and the Spirit Twins.

Other leagues have also followed suit, with the Chippewa River Baseball League, with teams in Chippewa, Eau Claire and Trempeleu counties suspending its season until further notice.

The Merchants, like many baseball leagues in the state, are hoping to retake the field in 2021, and expect to be bigger and better than ever.

“At this point, we’ve got brand-new jerseys, a beautiful ball park to play at and a core group of guys who are dedicated to the program,” Hogden said. “We will look to be back next season.”

Hogden left open the possibility that there might still be a chance the Merchants play a few games this year, but it will definitely not be a full slate.

“We may still try to get some nonconference games in this year to keep ourselves semi-sharp, but that depends on how other teams in the Dairyland League are faring with the schedule.”

As of yet, no decisions have been made regarding the annual July 4th Colby vs. Abbotsford cross-town rivalry game.