KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Minor League Baseball club owner Randy Boyd confirmed dozens of his employees are on furlough, part of a massive sweep of layoffs hitting professional baseball.
The Knoxville businessman's Boyd Sports LLC owns and operates the Chicago Cubs-affiliated Smokies Double A club as well as the Johnson City Cardinals, the Greeneville Reds and the Elizabethton Twins. Boyd also is president of the University of Tennessee System.
He told 10News on Friday his employees have been eligible for $600 weekly unemployment benefits made available by the federal government. Those payments end in July.
Boyd said there are serious doubts there'll be any Minor League Baseball this summer.
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Smokies Stadium off Interstate 40 in Sevier County typically draws thousands of fans to every home game. It has one of the best home attendance records in Double A ball, with popular fan events that include Star Wars Night and regular fireworks displays.
Last year the Smokies saw attendance of about 280,000, putting it in the top four in the Southern League.
Minor league players typically make no money from the game during the off-season unless they get winter assignments.
Major League Baseball had agreed to play minor league players $400 from what would have been the start of the season through the end of this month, according to NBC Sports.
Some teams have said they'll extend those payments, but the Cubs are not one of them, according to NBC.
Boyd also said he fears some minor league teams may not play again because of a restructuring proposal from MLB that will save about $600,000.
So, for example, fans in Johnson City, who have had baseball for decades, may potentially not see it again there under the MLB agreement. Johnson City is part of the Appalachian League.
While there's no play set for the Smokies at Smokies Stadium, the club will host the East Tennessee High School Baseball League next month. Media days are planned next week, the team announced.
Play starts Thursday and continues through July.