Senior amateur baseball league suspends season over capacity restrictions

By Michael Boriero – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Sherbrooke Expos suited up for one game before the Ligue de Baseball Majeur du Québec (LBMQ) had to suspend its regular season due to stadium capacity restrictions imposed by the Quebec government.
The LBMQ announced Friday that the season is once again suspended until further notice. The Expos were slated to play their home opener at Amedée Roy Stadium on Saturday evening. The league came back to a shortened 15-game schedule on July 12.
“Players are really angry and they’re unhappy with this because we have waited for three months and a half to begin our season and once we were able to begin our season with all the measures in place we have to stop again,” said Expos manager Bruno Laurin.
Teams were under the impression that they could host any number of people in their stadiums as long as everyone respected the health and safety guidelines established to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, like keeping a two-metre distance.
On Friday, however, the LBMQ discovered that it must abide by the mandated 50-person limit in public outdoor spaces, in accordance with rules drawn up by Quebec’s health officials. According to Laurin, teams can’t survive with heavy attendance limitations.
“The cost of umpires can go up to $250 and $300 per game, the cost of the balls and what not, so the league is not a viable one if the teams are only allowed to have 50 people,” he said.
Since the news dropped, the LBMQ president Daniel Bélisle and Baseball Québec have been pestering the provincial government to loosen fan restrictions in stadiums. The league expects to get a response at some point this week.
The problem right now, Laurin added, is that Sherbrooke’s owner has been paying out of pocket to ensure the team could play this summer. He hasn’t asked sponsors to chip in because it’s a shortened season.
“We did everything they asked for inside and outside our stadium, masks, gloves, everything about the distancing, everything is all set and clear, but with 50 people we just can’t make it,” said Expos owner François Lécuyer.
Amedée Roy Stadium seats 1,098 people, so it’s difficult to keep the facility open without taking a major financial hit, he continued. Lécuyer has several other expenses, too, including equipment, gas for players living in Montreal, scorekeepers and umpires.
The owner believes the government should alter the rules to something similar to restaurants and bars. If they could get about 40 to 60 per cent of their capacity, then he can justify keeping the stadium open.
In a phone interview, Lécuyer said he already lost roughly $3,000 to $4,000 this past weekend. He had four hotel rooms for players from Montreal all paid and he rented the team bus for two months.
The government needs to make a quick decision, he added. The league restarted deep into summer; another two- or three-week delay could mark the end of the season. And it could mean trouble for teams already struggling to make ends meet.
“If the government doesn’t move then we’re going to shut down the season and a lot of teams are going to go into bankruptcy,” said Lécuyer.

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