Summer sports to begin, focus on safety

Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     Since Gov. Kim Reynolds opened the door for high school baseball and softball to commence with a shortened 2020 season, Monticello’s coaches have been preparing not only for practice and play, but also for the protocols that have been put in place.

     Panther softball coach Bret McDonald and baseball coach Kolby Harms reacted positively to the guidelines Iowa’s two athletic organizations, the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, released last week. 

     “The main priority is to keep the kids safe,” McDonald said.

     “The guidelines are there for everyone’s safety,” Harms said. “That’s our biggest concern and priority this year. It is uncharted waters for everyone during this time, and we will follow the guidelines to the best of our abilities.”

     The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of summer sports until June 1 for the first practices and June 15 for the first games. Once play begins, social distancing will be key. Many of the traditions people are used to seeing – team huddles before each half inning, surrounding the plate to congratulate a player after a home run, shaking hands after the game – won’t be allowed.

     “It will be a bit different getting ready for games this year,” Harms said.

     “I think it will be hard to keep the distance that they are going to want,” McDonald said. “If something either exciting or heartbreaking happens, it is a natural reaction to go to our teammates to either celebrate or pick them up in a hard time.

     “There are so many variables, it feels like you can’t control them all. I feel like we’re going to do the best we can. You’re just hoping it goes well.”

     The Panther teams will have good numbers this spring; 42 for softball and 40 for baseball at this writing. All of them, as well as coaches, will have to adhere to a lengthy list of protocols the IHSAA and IGHSAU announced last week.

     Here is a partial list:

     • Players and coaches should have their temperature checked at home before attending practices or games. If a student-athlete has a temperature of 100.4 or above, they should not attend practices or games. Same with spectators attending games.

     • If a player has a positive test for COVID-19, the local school district will need to contact the county’s department of public health, which will provide guidelines regarding the next steps.

     • The local school district can make the determination to cancel their season at any time.


     • Social distancing should be maintained between players as much as possible. This means additional spacing between players while playing catch, changing drills so that players remain spaced out, and no congregating of players while waiting to bat.

     • No dugouts are to be used during practice. Players’ items should be lined up against a fence, at least six feet apart.

     • Parents must remain in their cars or drop off and pick up players after practice.


     • Use of dugouts are permitted during games only.

     • Players, coaches, trainers and umpires are the only ones allowed on the field of play or in the dugouts during contests.

     • Fans are permitted during games, but are encouraged to bring their own chairs or stand. Schools must limit the use of bleachers. Fans should practice social distancing between different household units.

     • No concession stands are permitted. Players and fans should bring their own beverages. No shared drinking fountains, water stations or coolers may be used.

     • Teams shall not exchange handshakes following the game. Teams can acknowledge the opponent with a tip of the hat or other appropriate non-contact measures.

     • Masks are not required to be worn by players, umpires, coaches or spectators.

     • Players should use their own batting helmet, bat, and catching equipment as much as possible.

     • Coaches must sanitize shared equipment before and after each game.

     “I’m sure guidelines will change as we have more information and answers on things,” Harms said.

     Both Panther coaches said they were surprised Gov. Kim Reynolds and the two state athletic associations approved a baseball and softball season, but are eager to get going.

     “I was pessimistic,” Harms said. “I thought there were too many variables and unknown answers. But I’m excited we are giving it a go.”

     “I think we’ve got to do it,” McDonald said. “The state is trying to see how it’s going to go, for this fall. If it goes well, it’s a big step forward.”



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