After some doubt that summer sports would be played, local baseball teams are getting set to begin practicing on June 1.
The Gering Platte Valley Companies junior and senior baseball teams are gearing up for their season that begins June 18, albeit not as Legion baseball teams.
“The American Legion will not be sponsoring any teams this year. All of the teams that do play, will be more like a club team,” said Gering coach Rick Kinnaman.
Although the American Legion canceled its national involvement, teams may be sponsored by their local American Legion post.
Teams will also be playing a shortened schedule. Each team will play around 35 games, leaving very little down time for the baseball teams this summer.
Kinnaman said he tried to stick with the schedule they already had fleshed out earlier in the year.
“There’s been a ton of changes, and we knew there would be,” he said. “That was the plan within our conference which includes Alliance, Sidney, Chadron and us. We were going to stay with it if we could. We adjusted the conference schedule a little bit.”
Kinnaman said the team’s in Gering’s conference stuck to playing conference games on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and used that as a starting point to fill out their schedules.
The American Legion announced early on as the COVID-19 pandemic was unfolding that it was canceling the national and regional tournaments. The state tournaments soon followed.
Gering and other area teams will compete in postseason tournaments. Chadron will host the juniors tournament on July 17-19. The seniors’ postseason tournament will be hosted by Alliance on July 24-28.
The tournaments give the teams as normal of a season as they can.
“(The tournaments) not only gives them a reason to play, but the season is chopped up and usually we get to play tournaments and then have a day off. Then we went on to regular season play, and play tournaments on the weekends. That didn’t happen this year, so it gives them something to look forward to,” Kinnaman said.
Player fees will be waived because of the shortened season. Gering is still seeking players, and is welcoming players from the surrounding area, according to a press release from the City of Gering.
Kinnaman said he hasn’t seen much interest from surrounding communities, so far.
“It’s pretty much the crew that we’ve had. We put a little bit of feelers out there, but a lot of people don’t seem to be willing to do anything (because of the directed health measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic),” he said.
The directed health measures will also make the season look a little different for fans and players, Kinnaman said.
“Until the loosen up some of those restrictions, it’s going to make the season really strange,” he said.
Casual fans will not be allowed to attend games. Only members in the same household as the player may attend games, and each family unit must keep at least 6 feet between other family units.
Teams will also not be allowed to use team vans to transport players to away games. Players must be driven to those games by a parent, as well.
“We have a couple of really nice vans that we recently purchase,” Kinnaman said. “We don’t know if we will really use those, except for maybe hauling equipment.”
Even with all of the restrictions in place, Kinnaman said his team is happy they get to take the field this summer.
“We’re glad that we’re getting to play. For some of these kids, it’s their last year,” he said. “They were just looking forward to this (summer), and then this comes along, and the Legion pulls out. ... I stay in contact with them every day and keep them posted on the changes and what’s coming up. They’re really looking forward to playing.”
Kinnaman said the rosters for the juniors and seniors aren’t set just yet.
“We’ve got some guys coming out late that might not have played for use before,” he said. “Then there’s a couple of older kids who are wavering. If an older guy doesn’t play, we will bump up a younger guy, and try to pull up somebody else. It’s like dominoes.”
The Gering juniors and seniors begin play on June 18 against Ogallala.