While it may have to look different, baseball is hopefully coming to a ballpark near you.
Current regulations will allow teams to start practicing on June 1 with games taking place on June 18.
While the national organization of The American Legion has severed its ties for the season, local posts are still working to put players on the field.
Before the season can take place there is still a lot of work to do. Coaches still have to divide up teams, get insurance, and get liability waivers signed.
"We’re going ahead and planning to play ball," Post 84 Baseball Supervisor Brad Hansen said. "We’re looking forward to getting underway. We have a lot of rules and regulations we have to follow, and it’s going to be tough to teach kids about social distancing from the minute they get out of their cars. Hopefully we get that straightened out so fall sports can benefit from our experience this summer."
One of the biggest pieces of the puzzle is the liability waiver currently under consideration by the City of Columbus. Players have a general waiver to sign each season. The pandemic adds another layer of potential risk for city liability.
As of early in the week, Columbus was working on a final draft while also waiting to see how similar cities have handled the situation.
"The lawyers are waiting for some work that has been done in other communities so we can look at that," Mayor Jim Bulkley said. "The thought is, 'Why reinvent the wheel If somebody else has something like this that we can tweak or make it work for Columbus?'"
Legion coaches are also busy filling the schedule. Normal staples such as the South Dakota tournament will not take place, leaving at least one weekend gap.
"We’ll pick up where we left off, but I don’t think we’ll go to any out of state tournaments," Hansen said. "By the time June 18 rolls around, that’s half the season. We can play until July 31 right now.
"We’re optimistic we’ll play some games. I don’t know. It’s also for the benefit of the kids, but we want to make sure everybody is safe."
Other safety measures will eliminate concession stands and only allow immediate family members to attend games. Those extra safety measures create more hoops to jump through but Legion teams in Columbus are free from one major obstacle - city sponsorship.
Some communities have city-sponsored teams, making it even more complicated. That's not the case for the four teams in Columbus.
"You might have noticed some cities have canceled their baseball programs," Bulkley said. "The city doesn’t sponsor baseball teams. There’s organizations that have the teams. We provide the fields. That’s the difference."
With all the measures put in place, the Legion is hoping that parents and players will do their best to follow and enforce the guidelines.
Any failure to follow the guidelines could result in the cancellation of the season.
"We’re going to ask some parents to police things," Hansen said. "The visiting team is going to have to follow the guidelines also and make sure they have insurance and everything else. There’s a couple stumbling blocks we’ll have to work through the first time through."
With much to accomplish before June 1, Hansen said he is optimistic that baseball will get underway.
"Our state representative on the board said the governor really gave us a gift by letting us do this," he said. "We have to make sure we do the best we can to follow the guidelines"
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com
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