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Business as usual for the Cutters

This has been the most interesting offseason of Gabe Sinicropi’s nearly three-decade career in Minor League Baseball. Never before has the Williamsport Crosscutters’ Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations had to deal with the things he and the entire organization has dealt with since the season ended in September.

First the Crosscutters were one of the 42 Minor League Baseball teams named as being potentially eliminated by Major League Baseball. Now, an air of uncertainty hangs over baseball as the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has put a halt to all professional sports in the country.

The saving grace for the Cutters is their season isn’t scheduled to begin until June 19, so there’s a chance the delaying of the start of baseball season may not affect the Cutters.

“We have to operate as if we’re starting on June 19,” Sinicropi said Tuesday. “We’re lucky that we don’t start start until mid-June, and we’re all hoping against hope that Major League Baseball and full-season minor league teams can start in late May or June and we can be underway as scheduled. But it’s not a guarantee, of course. We sit here and wonder, but we still have to plan. It can’t be that all of a sudden we do have a season and we’re not ready because we weren’t planning. But it’s all the things we don’t know that makes it so difficult.”

Up until this week, the Cutters didn’t have to worry about whether or not they would be affected by the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. When the initial two-week moratorium on spring training was put in place last week, it had no bearing on anything the organization was doing. But when the Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggested an eight-week ban on gatherings of 50 or more people, it brought the Cutters’ season opener into the picture.

It could take as many as three or four weeks for players to get ready to play a compressed baseball season once they’re given the OK to resume workouts. But the impact on the Cutters is more economic than anything.

The organization is still selling sponsorship opportunities for the season, and businesses which are still unsure of the economic impact of the pandemic aren’t ready to commit to sponsorship deals. It’s become painfully obvious in recent days the changes being made socially around the country to try and quell the spread of the disease will have a lasting impact on the economic future of every business, not just the business of baseball.

But Sinicropi understands the importance of what is happening right now, including Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf requesting Monday non-essential businesses close their doors for two weeks. The Cutters have done just that and all six of their full-time employees have the option to work from home. And even though the team’s offices and the Sawmill Team Store are closed to the public, merchandise and tickets can still be ordered online.

“This is so much bigger than any sport or any one business,” Sinicropi said. “This is the health and welfare of the world. All this stuff we have to do and change and close, it is what it is. There’s something that takes a much higher precedence right now.”

Minor league teams haven’t been given any indication from Major League Baseball when things may return to normal. The Cutters and the rest of the country’s 150-plus minor league teams are in wait-and-see mode.

The only thing Sinicropi and the rest of the Cutters’ staff can do is prepare as if the season will start on time. They can’t afford to be caught in a situation where they’re rushing to be ready when the season does begin. So while things are a little odd and they don’t have every answer, the staff has to act as if it’s business as usual for the foreseeable future.

“We’re going to trying to keep going and get done what we would normally get done in the middle of March,” Sinicropi said. “It’s weird with this whole thing hanging over your head and not knowing what’s going to happen. There’s so many scenarios that could take place over the next three months that we just don’t know. We just keep going until they tell us they’re ready to start.”

Regardless of everything else, Sinicropi is expecting the Crosscutters play baseball in Williamsport in 2020 and beyond. And he knows whenever the country does return to a sense of normalcy, they’ll be looking for outdoor distractions like Cutters baseball.

“By the middle of June, people are going to want to be out doing stuff,” Sinicropi said. “Hopefully we can all weather this storm and be back at the ballpark. It’ll be a breath of fresh air for all of us.”

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