WHEATLAND – “Weird, very,” Malcom Ervin said when asked how he felt at the first week of restricted American Legion baseball practice at Lewis Field in Wheatland.
“We have 9 today, but 32 in the league,” Ervin said. “We’re makin’ up for lost time, so it is going to look like we are going to practice 7 times a week. I’m going to try hard to get every day because we have about a month worth of work to make up.”
The first game is to be determined depending on upcoming restrictions, and if those restrictions will allow for closer athletic contact.
Beth Douglas, the American Legion baseball league local president who is in attendance for every practice making sure all restrictions are being upheld said that even if the games are to be played, they will most likely do so without fans.
“Wheatland is in a better situation than the big towns,” Douglas said. “Because we have the hill and the driveway down there. Fans can sit up there since it’s not in the bleachers.”
Regulations stipulate there can only be nine people at practice including coaches, so the teams are splitting up between two fields at practice. The players must remain six feet away from each other which would cause a problem making a tag or sliding into a base in close contact. Those rules may need to also be altered in light of the pandemic. The kids can not use the dugouts, they have to sanitize as they go on and off the field, and Douglas has to sanitize all the balls and other equipment that come from the equipment rooms after each practice. With three practices a night, that is a lot of sanitizing. There is also no sunflower seeds allowed and they kids must bring their own water.
Douglas, who runs a ranch with her husband finds the extracurricular time consuming, but a love for the game and for the kids of Wheatland keeps her going.
The first night of practice out of sports quarantine brought some excited athletes.
“Last night was our first practice and it went pretty well,” Douglas said. “The kids were just excited to be out. It rained on us, and it was cold and miserable, but they were excited to be together. And these boys have a passion for baseball. That’s why I’m here.”
Though the pandemic and the regulations and the restrictions, baseball is back. The boys of summer are reunited with the American pastime.
“It’s going to be a weird year,” Ervin said with a grin before he began the long trek to the farthest reaches of left field to practice social distancing with his 8 players.