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MLB lockout won’t stop Omaha baseball players chasing dreams

Published: Dec. 5, 2021 at 3:19 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Joe Siwa had retired from professional baseball just a couple of seasons before the big leagues had their last work stoppage. That was 26 years ago.

“That was a tough road for everybody and a lot of decisions had to be made. And quite a few players got their shot to stay with the big league teams as well,” said Siwa.

Now the former Roncalli High star and Minnesota Twins farmhand is co-owner of the Strike Zone in Omaha, where he works with current generations of baseball talent.

“We gotta get the kids so they understand you play the game because you love it, and you’re passionate about it. It’s a tough road for guys to get called up the big leagues,” he said.

Major League Baseball locked out the Major League Baseball Players Association this week as the two sides remain deadlocked over a new collective bargaining agreement to rule the sport. The last work stoppage was a player’s strike in the midst of the 1994 season, leading to the cancellation of the World Series. Most of the youngsters who dream of playing in the pros one day weren’t born yet.

“People might not really know what the lockout means and I think it’s really gonna have an impact on growing the game and making sure we have enough fans and things like that,” said Ben Allen, a hitting instructor.

The winter at the baseball and softball training complex is far from locked out, as players sign up for specialized camps, competitions, and training sessions.

“I think it’s great to get in here, especially these line drive leagues,” said Cooper Benecke of Papillion South High School. “It’s a competitive game, but it’s also just fun.”

“It gives me an advantage over everyone else,” said Mitchell Bake from Elkhorn North High School. “There’s some people who aren’t doing this and they’re just sitting on their couches. And it helps prepare me to play math the next level.”

If the MLB lock does continue and lead to games being cancelled, the good news is that minor league teams such as the Omaha Storm Chasers will play on.

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