Late Wednesday night, it was announced that Lehigh Valley and Syracuse would play a double-header Friday, beginning at 11 a.m. at Coca-Cola Park, the home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The remaining two games of the series will be made up in Syracuse at a later date, which has not been announced. Because of the late notice of the shift in games, the double-header will not be open to the public. The game will be broadcast locally on both radio and cable television and on MiLB.TV, although blackout restrictions will remain in effect.
International League President Randy Mobley issued the following statement:
"On behalf of the International League, we'd like to thank the Lehigh Valley IronPigs for hosting these two games at Coca-Cola Park on extremely short notice. "These were unforeseen circumstances but it's extremely beneficial to both teams along with their parent clubs to get the season underway this weekend."
Lehigh Valley IronPigs GM Kurt Landes also issued a statement on the games:
"We're sympathetic to the uncontrollable weather issues in upstate New York this weekend. As a fellow member of the International League alongside the Chiefs, the IronPigs organization is doing everything it can on short notice to assist the Chiefs and the league in their efforts to ensure that two games are played this weekend. Unfortunately, we're unable to open Coca-Cola Park to the public for these games due to safety issues concerning installations with contractors and vendors on-site in anticipation of our home opener on April 14."
It was just about 24 hours before the first pitch of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs season was set to begin that word came that they wouldn't be traveling to Syracuse to open the season. Because of unplayable field conditions at NBT Bank Stadium and a weather forecast that didn't offer much hope of the conditions getting any better, Syracuse Chiefs GM Jason Smorol decided to cancel the entire four-game series and save the IronPigs the trouble of making a needless trip to Syracuse. The Chiefs will now open the season at home on Monday against Buffalo and the IronPigs will wait until Monday to open their season in Rochester.
Smorol issued a statement about the conditions and the reasoning for canceling the entire series.
"The last thing we want to do is put our fans and our players in danger", said Chiefs general manager Jason Smorol in a released statement. "Over the past few days, our grounds crew and I have been closely monitoring the field and playing surfaces. Because of the heavy snow this past week, and with rain, snow and freezing temperatures in the forecast, we've determined that the weather has made playing unsuitable through Sunday.
There was no comment from the IronPigs on how the changes may affect their pitching plans or how they will attempt to keep their players sharp during the extra four day layoff. There is also no word on when the games would be made up. The IronPigs travel to Syracuse two more times during the season, with the next trip scheduled for April 20 and 21. They return in August for a four-game set. The two teams only have two common off-days during the season, falling on May 23 and August 8. While May 23 would potentially work because of Syracuse already being home for the off-day and Lehigh Valley going from playing at home the night before to Pawtucket on the 24th, that would give the IronPigs a stretch of 45 games in 45 days, which isn't allowed under Minor League Baseball rules. On August 8, Syracuse would be heading home from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, while Lehigh Valley would be traveling from home to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a game the next day.
The International League uses a schedule that has division opponents squaring off against each other early in the season. That set up leaves two of the stadiums in the southern-most part of the league not being used at times as the four South Division teams all play each other. For example, there aren't any games scheduled in Charlotte or Gwinnett until April 14th, the same day that the IronPigs open the home portion of their schedule. Another team from a warmer area, Louisville, also doesn't play at home until the 14th, while Pawtucket, Rochester and Syracuse all have two home series scheduled to play before the 14th.