For Outlaws, a new challenge arises

JARED BOMBA | The Daily StarOneonta’s Giordan Cerbo (5) is congratulated at home plate by Noah Cabrera (22) during a July 25, 2019, game at Damaschke Field.

With the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League canceling its 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oneonta Outlaws owner Gary Laing has a new goal, one that isn’t played out between the foul lines: making sure the Outlaws are around for an 11th season in 2021.

“There’s stuff I’ve already had to pay for, even though it’s canceled,” Laing told The Daily Star. “I’m going to try to figure out a way to do some fundraising just so I can get to next year.”

While the pandemic has affected the bottom lines of sporting organizations of all sizes, smaller outfits are likely to be hit especially hard. Lucrative television deals make it fiscally feasible and worthwhile for major professional sports to return to action, but smaller organizations often rely on attendance to pay the bills.

Minor league operations as large as the American Hockey League, the NHL’s top minor league, are facing an uncertain future, with Professional Hockey Players Association executive director Larry Landon expressing concerns about the league’s long-term viability to the Associated Press.

For even smaller groups like the PGCBL and the Outlaws, the margins are even narrower. Laing mentioned insurance and baseball equipment as expenses already paid out for the now-canceled 2020 campaign. Without the key revenue streams of advertising and game-day income, he said he may have to get creative with fundraising efforts.

“There are government loans out there, and I’m hoping to do some fundraisers,” Laing said, noting the organization’s non-profit status. “But everybody’s in a tough time right now, nobody’s got a lot of money.”

Another major expense for the ball club is the rent it pays to play at Damaschke. Without actually using the field this summer, it remains unclear whether or not that bill will remain on the Outlaws’ ledger.

“To my knowledge, there has not been any communication between the city and the Outlaws,” Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig told The Daily Star, noting that any decision on rent would come from the city council. “The city is doing anything we can to provide assistance to local business owners in any way we can and I’m sure the council would be happy to entertain such a request.”

For his part, Laing said he would prefer, in principle, to make his payments as usual.

“Of course I’d like to pay it, it’s not their (the city’s) fault,” Laing said. “It’s like any expense, you don’t want to tell anyone to just forget it.”

There are faint silver linings, however, as some expenses such as travel and concessions will not need to be paid this year. Laing also said that some advertising revenue will remain with the club, giving the organization short-term funds in return for advertising credit next season.

Much like most of the spring spent awaiting news on whether or not the season would be played, Laing said he is again waiting, this time to see how the state’s reopening goes. He said he is hoping that fundraising events will become a possibility later in the summer, and that he was looking at giving the public a way to purchase merchandise without going to the ballpark.

“I’m working on a lot of that stuff. I have to do something to raise funds,” he said. “You’ve got to do whatever it takes.”

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