The Red Sox and the Lowell community continue to hold talks about if and how a Red Sox-affiliated minor league club can return to play at LeLacheur Park.
Those talks are now devoted almost entirely to next year, meaning that this summer the charming ballpark that overlooks the Merrimack River is not expected to host professional baseball games for the second year in a row.
“We’re still in talks with the Red Sox to get baseball here again, but I don’t think there’s going to be any Spinners or professional baseball going on at LeLacheur Park this summer,” said Lowell Mayor John Leahy Thursday.
The Lowell Spinners lost their affiliation as the Red Sox’ Single A New York-Penn League team in December when Major League Baseball finalized its takeover and restructuring of Minor League Baseball.
The Spinners were one of 40 minor league teams to lose their affiliation, and while MLB stated that it would try to find homes for the de-affiliated teams in an MLB-sponsored “Draft League” or independent league, the Spinners are one of the approximately 10 teams still not under the MLB umbrella.
When the restructuring was announced Dec. 9, the Red Sox and the city of Lowell, along with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, US Representative Lori Trahan, and US Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren responded with a statement that they were united in keeping baseball in the Lowell community and that the sides were in the “early stages of evaluating various opportunities for the 2021 season, and will continue to discuss longer-term options in the weeks ahead.”
Nearly three months later, hope for the Spinners being associated with an MLB-sponsored league this summer has all but evaporated, with the focus of the unresolved talks shifting to next year.
Like every other MLB team, the Red Sox now have four minor league teams: the Triple A WooSox in Worcester, the Double A Sea Dogs in Portland, Maine, the High A Greenville (S.C.) Drive, and the Low A Salem (Va.) Red Sox. With the WooSox and Sea Dogs looking firmly ensconced, speculation about which affiliate the Red Sox could move to Lowell has focused on Greenville or Salem.
For now, the UMass Lowell baseball team has been using LeLacheur Park as its practice field. Lowell is now fully responsible for maintenance of the ballpark, which is overseen by a civic stadium commission.
The Spinners previously shared in the upkeep of the ballpark, with the team paying for significant upgrades to the lighting, grass, and concessions before the 2018 season. In part, the lease between the Spinners and the city was contingent upon the team’s MLB affiliation, with the terms expiring 60 days after de-affiliation.
The Spinners, owned by Dave Heller, no longer have any full- or part-time employees.
The Spinners played their last game at LeLacheur Park — a 2-1 loss to the Brooklyn Cyclones — on Sept. 8, 2019. The entire minor league schedule was wiped out last year because of the pandemic.