Duluth Huskies owner Michael Rosenzweig finds himself driving around town on a sunny day and thinks, “What a beautiful day to be at the ballpark,” only to sink back into the cruel reality of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wish I could toot my horn, play some music, send out some fireworks and say, ‘Man, we’re going tomorrow,’ but I can’t do that yet. I just can’t,” Rosenzweig said. “We’ll just have to wait it out a little bit.”
Rosenzweig is used to it. The Huskies were originally scheduled to open the season May 26 but can’t due to restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus. Still, Rosenzweig sees reasons for optimism.
The Northwoods League announced Thursday that another “pod” of six teams, all but one from Wisconsin, will return to play starting July 1. Those teams are Fond du Lac, Green Bay, La Crosse, Wisconsin Rapids, the Wisconsin Woodchucks and Rockford (Illinois).
Two weeks ago the league announced a North Dakota pod with Bismarck to host three Northwoods League teams this season, the Larks, Bull Moose and Flickertails, with games starting Monday.
Rosenzweig can only hope a Minnesota pod is next.
“That would be the next one that will probably be looked at, but nothing is set in stone,” Rosenzweig said. “There’s been some discussion, but we’ll have to see if something can be put together. Only time will tell.”
While the Huskies season remains undecided, Duluth Parks and Recreation will make Wade Stadium, as well as select pavilions and park locations, available for rent to groups up to 25 people starting Monday. That includes sports practices and private events such as birthday parties and weddings.
Should the Huskies have a season, the city will work with the Huskies to prepare Wade Stadium for an adapted schedule.
“Anything is possible,” Rosenzweig said. “We’re waiting for the blossoms to come out on the bush. We don’t have an exact time frame.”
Phase III of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s plan to turn back the dial on state restrictions due to COVID-19 began Wednesday. It limits outdoor entertainment to 250 people. That isn’t enough for the Duluth Huskies, and it likely isn’t enough for the Northland auto racing dirt tracks, either.
“We need to have fans,” Rosenzweig said. “It’s expensive to open the doors for a baseball game. We need fans in the stands to make this work. Anybody who runs a business knows it takes 'X' number of dollars to open up the store, and you can’t do it at 250, you just can’t do it.”
Rosenzweig said there will be more meetings with the Northwoods League later this month, when fans will get a better idea on the prospects for a season, any kind of a season, this summer.
“This has been a summer of hurry up and wait,” Rosenzweig said. “Every time you turn around, we just don’t know what’s going to happen next. We’re just hopeful we’ll get some baseball in yet this summer.”
No matter what happens, Rosenzweig wanted to make one thing clear: if the Huskies don’t play this summer, all tickets purchased this year, whether as part of the four-game pass, the seven-game pass, whatever, will all be honored next season.
Rosenzweig said fan support has helped him during what has been a rough time to be a team owner.
“I have to be honest with you, we’ve got the greatest fans,” he said. “They call and say, ‘Mike, we feel your pain. We’re with you. If something comes up, we’ll be back.’ They’ve all been so good, and it’s been tremendously uplifting. It just makes you feel really really good. We’re very very lucky. We just have the greatest fans anybody could ever want.
“Everyone is keeping their fingers crossed for this summer, but if not, they know we will be back next year, and we will be bigger and better than ever.”