‘We’ll bounce back.’ Peoria Chiefs’ season may be over, but hope still remains

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — “We’ll be back in 21, we’re not worried about that. That’s something that’s been our focus for awhile now,” Peoria Chiefs General Manager Jason Mott said.

Baseball will not play in Peoria this summer, with the cancellation of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season.

In its nearly 120 years of existence, MILB has never been forced to cancel its entire season, until now.

It’s of course due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Which means going to Peoria Chiefs games is going to have to wait until next year.

One of Peoria’s cornerstones, the Peoria Chiefs, are another victim of COVID-19.

A season canceled. Leaving players without a stadium full of fans, and fans without a place locally to enjoy America’s past time.

“That was the first thing I thought of yesterday, was all the Minor Leaguers without a job now,” Mott said.

The news was devastating to Mott, but not entirely surprising.

The uncertainty of a season starting somewhat prepared him for the season loss, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

“There’s nothing that can replace seeing the kids running around the stadium here, the smiling faces, seeing the kids with their parents making the memories,” Mott said.

Mott, with two sons of his own, says having to tell them was one of the hardest things he had to do.

“They asked about Homer, ya know, what’s Homer gonna do?” Mott said.

But Mott says this is just another hurdle that Peoria, and the Chiefs, are gonna jump over.

“We’ll bounce back,” Mott said confidently. “You’re probably gonna end up having to look at this as part of a restart for an organization.”

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis says while this is a huge hit to the Peoria area, the people are what’s going to get the City through.

“Everybody’s dealing with the same issues, a lot of communities don’t have the fight and the resiliency Peoria has. I know we’ll fight our way through this, I know we’ll be back and keep our eyes focused on the future,” Mayor Ardis said.

While Dozer Park may sit empty for now, Mott says he’s going to put a plan in place with the Peoria City/County Health Department, on how to find other ways to host events while still putting public health first.

Mott says while most people see sports as a huge industry, it’s actually a lot smaller than people think. Citing many people on Twitter reaching out to him in support after the news broke Tuesday.

He says the support he’s received from people around the country has been extremely encouraging and he’s looking forward to making next season even better.

“Everybody who works in Peoria for the Chiefs, we consider family,” Mott said. “This is a second job for a lot of them, supplemental income. With them, no games, there’s not a lot we can do for them. I feel for them, I’ve talked with a lot of them, I consider a lot of them friends.”

Mott says he spoke with St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak on Tuesday about the decision. He believes the Cardinals and Chiefs will continue their affiliation for many years to come.

Mayor Ardis says going to a Peoria Chiefs game is family-friendly and very affordable.

“The Chiefs are a huge cornerstone. People are always talking about what’s a good family-friendly, relatively inexpensive thing you can do in Peoria, and it’s Chiefs baseball. You can come out, see some kids working hard, trying to make it to the big leagues,” Ardis said.

He says the economic impact of not having visiting teams in will negatively impact the City financially.

“The visiting teams have people that follow them, once they’re here, a lot of them stay in the hotels, they go to our restaurants,” Ardis said.

Mott says we won’t know the exact loss of revenue for awhile, but he imagines it will be in the six figures in the red for economic impact.

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