The Boys of COVID-19 Summer: Macon Bacon find way to win, entertain during pandemic

Jason Vorhees, The Telegraph

Nestled south of downtown Macon, Luther Williams Field is a piece of history. One of the oldest minor league ballparks in the country, the stadium is home to the Macon Bacon of the summer Coastal Plain League. 

The Bacon added to the park’s history this summer, wrapping their season as 2020 Southern Summer Ball Series champions. But they almost didn’t play this year, the season’s status uncertain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After establishing health and safety protocols, team leadership decided to move forward with the season, and most of the games sold out fairly quickly after the announcement hit social media sites that the team would provide summer entertainment. 

“It felt different having less people around the stadium,” Tyler Vertin, marketing director for the Bacon, said. “The atmosphere wasn’t the same as having over 3,000 people in attendance, but it still felt like a baseball game.”

Entertainment, including the Sizzle Squad performing mid-inning skits, continued as usual. However, there were some noticeable changes. Employees had to wear masks, all concessions were cashless, areas of the park were frequently sanitized and wiped down and social distancing markers were placed around the park.

Not only was it different for the employees and spectators: the seasons was different for the team as well. Luke Sutko, a senior baseball player at Mercer University, played for the Bacon this year.

“COVID had a huge effect on the season. We had so many protocols to follow,” Sutko said. “I’ve never had to ride so many hours on a bus wearing a mask than I have this summer.”

Employees carefully monitored safety protocols, including the park’s maximum capacity, cut from 3,000 to 1,300.

“Less people were allowed inside and we had a socially distanced seating bowl,” Vertin said. “With less people allowed in, that meant less ticket sales. Less ticket sales meant less food and merchandise sold. Overall, it was less revenue than past seasons but it was better than none.”