Asheboro, NC - Citing the health of players, fans, sponsors, host families, interns, and all involved, the owners of the Asheboro Copperheads have decided not to participate in the Coastal Plain League this summer.

In an announcement Wednesday, Copperheads officials stated the decision to skip this season was a very difficult one, but one that had to be made in order to ensure the safety and well-being of players, fans, and workers.

"This is without question the toughest decision we've had to make as an organization, but for the overall health and safety of our host families, players, staff and fans, we feel that playing would not be in everyone's best interest," owner Doug Pugh said.

The Copperheads were set to embark on their 22nd season in the Coastal Plain League when the coronavirus caused the postponement of the start of the league until July 1. However, with state and local officials still unsure where North Carolina will be at that time, the Copperheads elected to forego the season for health reasons.

Although a number of collegiate summer leagues have called off their seasons, the CPL is allowing each organization to make a decision concerning their franchise.

Florence opted out earlier and the RedWolves were soon followed by Holly Springs and Tri-City, which was set to begin its first year in the CPL. The Copperheads then postponed their season.

"I think Doug pretty well described the feelings in the Copperhead organization," owner Ronnie Pugh said. "It was a difficult decision and many factors come into play. Several teams made the decision to opt-out and it is likely there could be more to come. The league itself had opted out and left all the planning up to the individual teams. From the league perspective, with eight teams in North Carolina and our state being considerably behind most states in opening up - for whatever reason - hurt everyone's chances. We'll all miss our Copperhead family this summer but look forward to many great summers in the future."

Head Coach and General Manager Keith Ritsche has been hard at work collecting a very talented group of players for the upcoming season. A number of players had elected to return to the Copperheads from last summer and there was a new group of incredibly talented players ready to represent the Copperheads.

"Our deepest apologies go out to all the fans, host families, and sponsors of the Copperheads as we learned that the negative impacts of Covid-19 have trickled down to canceling our season," Ritsche said. "We know the impact this also has on our loyal employees and interns that help us with day-to-day operations. With this decision, as difficult as it was, we hope that by not playing, it will keep the players and interns who were supposed to be here, the employees, host families and fans safe from this unthinkable pandemic. We want to reassure everyone who was or is still involved with us, we as an organization have already started preparations for the 2021 season. We guarantee it will be our most memorable season to date."

According to a press release issued Wednesday morning by the league, CPL teams in Georgia and South Carolina: the Savannah Bananas, Macon Bacon, and Lexington County Blowfish, will start play on July 1 for the league and non-league games in accordance with guidelines from state and local officials. A season-ending CPL southern region playoff series between these teams is also planned.

Depending on potential revisions in state and local regulations and being able to meet those regulations, teams in North Carolina and Virginia, including the Forest City Owls, Gastonia Grizzlies, High Point-Thomasville HiToms, Martinsville Mustangs, Morehead City Marlins, Peninsula Pilots, Wilmington Sharks, and Wilson Tobs plan to begin play sometime in July.

Copperheads officials thought the risk was just too great.

"This season was set up to be a special one," Ritsche said. "The players we had compiled on our roster who were expected to report next week were not only some of the most talented we ever had but some of the most respectful and high-character individuals I have gotten to know. It's a shame all of you reading this will not get to meet or watch them perform, many of whom will be high-profile draft picks in a few years and possible major leaguers. I want to thank them for their loyalty in sticking with us as we tried to make things work and it saddens me that once again, like their college seasons, another one was cut short. Although my final speech as a coach to them this summer will not happen after the last game of the season as normal, I want them all to know what I would have told them on that day: They will be missed, they will be loved and I will forever do anything for them." 

Copperheads officials will be in contact with sponsors and season ticket holders with more information in the coming days.