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Bill Kirby Jr.: Woodpeckers Preparing for 2021 Season


Segra Stadium was quiet for the 2020 season, but the Fayetteville Woodpeckers are looking forward to 2021, replete with COVID-19 protocols for public health safety. (Photo/Joe Dwyer)

Play ball!

Yes, that’s the plan for the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, according to a news release, as the Class-A affiliate team of the Houston Astros awaits word from Major League baseball about scheduling for its 2021 minor league season.

“Once a schedule is released, our front office will contact all season membership holders and sponsorship partners to finalize plans for the upcoming season,” Pete Subsara

director of marketing for the Woodpeckers, says in the release. “We can’t wait to safely welcome our fans back to Segra Stadium and once again experience the sights and sounds of Woodpeckers baseball.”

The Woodpeckers accepted an invitation Friday to participate as a Class-A affiliate of the Astros, according to the release, under a new players development structure. The Woodpeckers previously were a Class-A Advanced team.

And yes, the new affiliation is a step down.

But not to worry.

It’s professional baseball, and we’ll likely be seeing more of the Astros’ top first-round draft selections honing and sharing their skills at Segra Stadium located downtown and just across from City Hall.

The Woodpeckers will be competing in a 12-team league to include the Carolina Mudcats, the Delmarva (Maryland) Shorebirds, the Fredericksburg (Virginia) Nationals, the Lynchburg (Virginia) Hillcats, the Down East (North Carolina) Wood Ducks, the Salem (Virginia) Red Sox, the Augusta (Georgia) GreenJackets, the Charleston (South Carolina) RiverDogs, the Columbia (South Carolina) Fireflies, the Kannapolis (North Carolina) Cannon Ballers and the Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) Pelicans. There is no word yet, Subsara says, if Nate Shaver will return to manage the team.

“There's an argument to be made that the quality of baseball will be better with three less levels in every affiliate tree,” Subsara says. “More prospects will come through Fayetteville. We will also continue to have top-notch game presentation and keep our fans engaged every game. That won't change. That's what made our product so fun in 2019, and we will continue that tradition.”

Fun at the Ballpark

That fan engagement is as much the key to an evening at Segra Stadium as the talented players on the field.

Fans, and even those who don’t know much about the game, just love coming to the stadium, where they can socialize with one another, slather mustard over a hot dog or enjoy a cold beer over at Healy’s Right Field Bar.

The 2019 season was lost completely as the global health pandemic set in that shuttered businesses, entertainment and kept us apart. With Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now available in the community, we are a city and county with anticipation of getting back to a sense of normalcy, including a “Take me out to the ballgame” mindset.

Still, the Woodpeckers are looking ahead to the 2021 season with guarded optimism with regard to the COVID-19 health pandemic.

Public Health Safety First and Foremost

“We are still working on capacity limits for 2021,” Subsara says about the stadium with a 6,662 full capacity although, Subsara emphasizes, that will not be the case this season because of public health concerns. “The situation remains fluid. We will have a cap limit due to social distancing and will share that number once we get approval from all parties.”

Among the public health safety protocols, according to the Woodpeckers, will be regular cleanings of the stadium; additional hand-sanitizing stations; ionizers and or disinfectant foggers for enclosed areas of the ballpark; documentation of all public restroom cleanings; and the Woodpeckers staff will be regularly wiping down handrails, drink rails and all common-touch in and around the seating bowl, and that’s just some of the safety initiatives.

“We will be working closely with the City of Fayetteville, the Houston Astros and MLB,” Subsara says about protecting all when it comes to public health safety. “Our season membership holders and sponsorship partners will be contacted once everything is approved and we will make sure they are taken care of first.”

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at bkirby@cityviewnc.com, billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961