Landscape of Class C Legion Baseball changing due to COVID-19
Legion baseball is right around the corner. Teams can begin practicing June 1, and start playing games by June 18.
To do so, they must follow all of the DHM restrictions put in place by the state. However, these restrictions and the scare of the virus are forcing a lot of small towns into not having baseball this year. Leaving a heavy impact on Class C legion baseball across the state.
"There are some towns that have told their teams no you can't play in town, you can only play away games and that makes a hassle for it. For some other reasons some towns have said no we're not having it this year," said Sutton Legion Baseball Coach Brian Bonnell. "It really has changed the landscape of what small town baseball is going to look like. We're getting scheduled more games with the upper teams than we normally would get."
Bonnell says missing out on a season entirely could really hurt these Class C teams down the road.
"Especially with Class C and the smaller towns. You struggle every year to have enough numbers. You really take advantage of the dual rostering where you have younger boys play up on seniors, and if you miss a year you lose boys," said Bonnell. "They find other things, they get jobs, they find other activities, or they just lose interest in it because they get distant from it. Then your program struggles for a couple of years more than it already did."
The restrictions on the field all have to do with social distancing. Those restrictions pour out to the stands as well. Which has put the Sutton and other small town teams in a financial bind.
Sutton relies on the support from their town. They average around 75-200 fans per game. Now they are limited to only immediate family members.
"We don't have a corporate sponsorship like you have with some of the Class A and B teams, so we rely on a fundraiser at the beginning of the year. We do a big steak feed or prime rib dinner, and we weren't able to have that this year," saidn Bonnell. "So paying for umpires this year is going to be a bit of a challenge because we're not able to charge a gate fee."
They will now be having a new fundraiser on June 1. You can find all the details to the event on their Facebook
Even with all of the restrictions and changes, Sutton is just thrilled to be able to get back on the diamond with their teammates.
"With all that we've fought and to go through, and what these kids have endured. To make it happen, that first pitch is just going to be phenomenal. Once that happens, I think you will hear a collective breath throughout DLD Park when that happens," said Bonnell. "I know I'll probably have a slight tear in my eye because I know what these kids have gone through, and what they mean to me and to this town. And what baseball means."