Baseball returns in Minnesota as town teams begin play despite health guidance

Some amateur teams will take the field beginning Friday night.
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town team baseball, amateur baseball

Baseball will be played in Minnesota this weekend as some town ball teams have been granted permission from local owners to play on fields, despite guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) advising against a return to competitive play. 

Per MDH guidelines, baseball and softball are considered "medium risk" sports that are not permitted to resume competitive games at this point of the COVID-19 outbreak, which health officials also believe may be plateauing in Minnesota. 

In a message to the hundreds of amateur teams throughout the state, the Minnesota Baseball Association (MBA) issued its own guidelines for returning to the diamond. To play competitively, teams must send the MBA an approval email from a city councilor or administrator, school board member, athletics director or superintendent, or from the owner of a private field. 

Additionally, the email or letter must prove that the ballpark and other facilities are insured for use by local town teams. So far, there are about 20 teams that have been approved to play, many of them planning to take the field for the first time this season on Friday night. 

All facilities must follow the MBA's COVID-19 preparedness plan, which prohibits concession stands and demands social distancing and keeping attendance under 250 people, which matches the state's orders for churches and fitness centers that have been allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity. 

Mike Nagel, secretary and treasurer of the MBA, and the manager of the Bird Island Bullfrogs, says he has written multiple letters to Gov. Walz and has yet to get a response. One of his letters proposed the following return-to-play guidelines: 

  1. Encourage social distancing by spectators inside the park. The size of our stadiums makes this easy to accomplish.
  2. Social distancing of players in dugouts, bullpens and outside the dugout to the outfield side if needed.
  3. Hand sanitizer available in both dugouts and at concession stand.
  4. No handshakes, high fives or unneeded contact of any kind.
  5. Players should avoid sharing gear.
  6. Players will label and bring their own water or sports drink. No water fountains may be used under any circumstance.
  7. No spitting of any kind this includes sunflower seeds, chewing tobacco, etc.
  8. Facemasks and gloves may be worn by players, fans and umpires.
  9. Facemasks and gloves must be worn by all concession workers.
  10. Umpires can choose to stand behind the catcher or pitcher.

Those guidelines will be posted on the dugouts and other structures throughout the ballpark area, in addition to being read aloud by a public address announcer before each game. 

Walz has indicated that July could mark the beginning of allowing competitive action for sports like baseball and softball, but nothing has been set in stone, though he did say Friday morning that getting kids back into sports is on his mind. 

"We have to get these kids back playing sports and get them into school somehow, and that is a big piece of how we receive some of this normalcy again," Walz said on WCCO Radio. 

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