There weren’t too many baseball and softball coaches in the AJ-E area who realistically felt there would actually be a high school summer sports season in 2020, but after Governor Kim Reynolds proclaimed Wednesday, May 20, that there would indeed will be baseball and softball games, things began to come together quickly.

      “We’re playing and we have a schedule,” said a euphoric Anamosa baseball coach Bryan McCray, who returns a very experienced squad this summer, and was desperately hoping they’d be able to suit up this season.

      “We’re back, but we’re going to be playing under a lot of restrictions. But at least we’re playing. As long as we can keep everyone safe, and that goes from a parent and fan perspective as well, everything should be fine.”

      The list of precautions, as handed down by the Iowa Department of Education Guidance, is extensive, but area coaches are willing to work with them to be able to play ball.

      “Right now, we have a conference-only schedule of 14 JV/varsity games,” said Anamosa softball coach Brad Holub, who also returns a loaded club good enough to make another run at the state tournament.

      “I think the 14-game schedule is mainly to protect baseball players and not extend their pitching. Softball doesn’t have that problem as teams mainly use a more limited staff, but we’re very excited to be back and have a chance at playing, because I thought our chances of getting onto the field this summer were about 20-percent at best. This is a great opportunity for everyone.”

      Following the guidelines set out by the state, baseball and softball practices can begin June 1, with playing dates set to start June 15.

      There are rules however, for both dates.

      Among the 14 guidelines set for practices, no dugout can be used and players’ items should be lined up against the fence at least six-feet apart. Players should use their own gloves, helmets and bats as much as possible. Parents must remain in their cars to drop-off and pick up players from practice. Coaches are responsible for ensuring social distancing is 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 at-bat. Players must bring their own water/beverage to consume during and after each practice. No shared drinking fountains, portable hydration stations or coolers may be used. Coaches must sanitize shared equipment before and after each use. Players and coaches should check their temperatures before attending practices and anyone with symptoms of illness is not allowed to practice.

      That’s just a few of the new guidelines.

      The one that may be the toughest for coaches and players to change however?

      Coaches must ban the spitting of sunflower seed shells.

      Once games begin June 15, a few more rules were added, though dugouts will be allowed during game play only.

      Schools must limit the use of bleachers for fans and encourage fans to bring their own chairs or stand. Fans should practice social distancing between different household units and accept personal responsibility for public health guidelines. Schools must implement any other reasonable measures under the circumstances of each school to ensure social distancing for staff, students and community members, increased hygiene practices and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 with guidance by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

      No concession stands will be permitted as well.

      While all of the AJ-E area schools are excited about the opportunity to play summer sports, all might not actually be able to do it.

      “We’re as excited as everyone else about this great news,” said Springville baseball coach Tony Dlouhy. “And we’re hoping that we get to play this summer too, but at this point we’re still not sure that’s a realistic possibility for us.

      “From a coaching point of view, we’re moving forward as if we’ll be able to play, and that’s what we’re hoping for, but right now I’m just not completely sure that’s going to happen. We have some logistical problems to work through and our main concern is keeping our kids safe. Right now, there are just too many unknowns, but I’ll respect whatever decision is made by our administration. I know they’ll do what is best for our kids and our community.”

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