Batter up! Governor, associations clear way for high school baseball, softball

Caleb Sauser of the Monticello High School baseball team signals himself safe (which he was) on a play at second base during the 2019 season. Baseball teams across the state learned last week that they can have a season after all. (Express file photos)

Tori McDonald of the MHS softball team is about to be congratulated by her coach and father Bret McDonald after a 2019 home run. This year’s Panthers could begin play as soon as June 15.
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     High school baseball and softball in Iowa will be able to conduct their seasons, following a proclamation by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds May 20.

     Her proclamation was followed by swift approval from the state’s two athletic associations.

     “Obviously everyone’s excited,” Monticello activities director Tim Lambert said. “It’s been a long time coming. Kids want to be active and see their friends and be involved. And I know the coaches were anxious to get going.”

     Gov. Reynolds’ proclamation allows for school facilities to be reopened and for summer sports practices to begin June 1. Games can commence as soon as June 15. Fans will be permitted to attend games.

     Both the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) approved the governor’s recommendation within hours of her regular weekday press conference. The approvals were made upon the recommendation of the Iowa Department of Public Health.

     “This is terrific news and is a step toward getting our student-athletes reconnected to the activities that mean so much to them,” said Tom Keating, executive director of the IHSAA in a press release.

     In the same release, IGHSAU executive director Jean Berger agreed: “The guidelines laid out by the Department of Education and the Department of Public Health will enable us to safely move forward with a softball season this summer.”

     High school activities have been shut down in Iowa since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

     A tentative River Valley Conference schedule has been compiled. Baseball and softball teams will play against the same school on the same dates, playing on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Each night will include a junior varsity game at 5 p.m., followed by a varsity game at 7 p.m.

     The RVC baseball schedule currently calls for 11 regular season games over 3½ weeks; softball teams will play 12 over four weeks. If there are rainouts, those games will not be made up. Also, non-conference games for this season have been eliminated.

     The schedule shows six home dates for Monticello. No admission will be charged. Concession stands will be closed.

     Lambert said Monticello’s numbers in both sports are strong, so a schedule for freshman teams is being compiled that will include 8-10 games against particular schools.

     The baseball postseason will begin July 11. The softball postseason, including the state tournament, have been pushed back a week; the first regional games will be July 15.

     “I think everyone was excited for the news, but at the same time, there is an uncertainty of how this is going to look,” Lambert said.

     On May 20, the Iowa Department of Education issued guidance to school districts about practice and games for the coming season.

     For both practices and games, guidelines include players and coaches checking their temperatures before attending practice, coaches sanitizing shared equipment before and after each game, players using their own equipment as much as possible, players bringing their own water or other beverage, maintaining social distancing, and more.

     Dugouts will be used during games, and there are additional guidelines for social distancing involving fans.

     “We know the games will have different circumstances and that we will all have to work together to keep everyone safe, but we are confident that we are up to this challenge,” Berger said.

     Keating added: “We trust that our administrators, coaches, umpires and fans will responsibly follow the guidelines in place to keep themselves and each other safe.”

     Lambert said many things need to be worked out, including restroom use and sanitation, transportation for teams to and from games, and whether or not to use bleachers in hopes of fans sitting far enough apart.

     “Another concern is the availability of umpires,” Lambert said. “All of the ADs in our conference have had multiple crews reach out and say they’re not going to officiate, because they’re in that high-risk category.

     “The other unknown is, what if a kid on your team or the opponent comes up with a positive test for COVID-19? Does that kid have to quarantine? Does the whole team have to quarantine, and does that shut your team down for two weeks? Those are the things that nobody knows.”



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