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USPBL plans for full schedule of games, sellout crowds in 2021

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Andy Applebly, founder and owner of Utica's four-team United Shore Professional Baseball League, continues to be the eternal optimist.

The USPBL on Monday announced plans for a full season in 2021, with fans.

The USPBL on Monday announced plans for a full season in 2021, with fans.

He said the season will start May 28 and finish Sept. 21, with a full 75-game schedule at Jimmy John's Field.

"We are confident that the pandemic will be under control by next summer, and we are eager to have fans back at Jimmy John's Field," Appleby said in a statement. "We will continue to provide a safe experience for everyone at the ballpark. Our terrific promotions, including a fireworks spectacular show every Friday, will kick off a summer filled with the family friendly experience the USPBL is known for.

"We are the best entertainment venue in all of Metro Detroit and our community deserves to have some fun."

The USPBL played a limited schedule in 2020, with fan capacity capped at 100 — and priority given to prime season-ticket holders and sponsors. Several increased safety and health measures were initiated, including temperature checks for everyone entering the park, cashless sales and dozens of hand-sanitation stations.

Jimmy John's Field has a capacity of about 4,500, and in a typical, non-pandemic year, the USPBL sells out more than half of the season.

The USPBL's 2020 season didn't start until July — though it was the first professional sports league to start back up after the March shutdown — costing the league significant but untold revenues. Appleby, in multiple interviews with The News, wouldn't specify how much revenue was lost. But he did say furloughs were limited to a handful of sales workers, with those coming late in the summer.

"At the end of the day, at least we can say did it," Justin Orenduff, the USPBL's director of baseball operations, told The News in September. "We got through it."

Among the notable dates scheduled for 2021: The season starts Friday, May 28, with a game between the two-time defending champion Utica Unicorns and the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers; the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game are Saturday, July 10; and the playoffs will start Friday, Sept. 10, with the championship game set for Sunday, Sept. 12.

The USPBL is making plans for a full promotion schedule, with Friday fireworks, live-music Saturdays, Sunday kids days, and Wednesday's oldies nights.

All of that will depend, of course, on where Michigan is in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reinstalled several restrictions on businesses and gatherings Sunday, amid a significant surge in cases and deaths. There is some hope the pandemic could finally be contained by late spring or early summer 2021, with recent news on the progress on two vaccines, both which say they could be at least 90% effective.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984