Minnesota’s American Legion Baseball board voted to cancel Legion ball in Minnesota this summer in light of the COVID-19 pandemic furing a meeting onMay 9.
This leaves players, ages 15-19, scrambling for opportunities to play.
“This was a very tough call, but due to National Legion, the Minnesota state commander and the Department of Health input, the vote was unanimous,” said board member and Excelsior Legion Baseball general manager Jim Peck, who has been involved with Legion ball since 1975.
Peck called the cancellation of the Legion season “one of my worst days in all my time in baseball.”
Since there were 357 teams signed up to play Minnesota Legion ball this year, the question is: What options are available for those teams?
Peck shared his thoughts: “There would be some rules - social distancing, a limited number of fans, umpire behind the mound, no concessions, players not sharing rides to the games. We have Veterans Field available for our players. But I know some of the other parks will not be open.”
Due to the possibility that many fields might not be available in July, Peck made a decision to cancel the 96-team Gopher Classic tourney.
One of the concerns for all teams is insurance.
Since there is no insurance available through the American Legion’s usual channels, teams planning to play this summer would have to insure independently or align with another national program, such as Babe Ruth Baseball, Peck explained.
“I have been communicating with a lot of people by email and text messages,” Peck said. “I am not in a position to organize that [a program for various communities]. For our Excelsior/Minnetonka kids, more than 80 percent want to play. There will always be some parents who won’t allow their kids to play [due to COVID-19].”
Mike Perry of Hopkins Legion Post 320, who retired as state Legion baseball director at the conclusion of the 2019 season, knows there is summer baseball interest among his players. “They will probably try to play as a team,” he said. “After the Legion baseball board’s announcement on the 9th, travel baseball clubs had emails out to some of our players right away.”
Based on what other states are doing, Perry is optimistic that there will be baseball for high school age players this summer.
“Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are up and running with independent programs,” he said. “North Dakota’s Legion teams are going to play Senior Babe Ruth.”
Peck said there is one change that is almost sure to happen – a hiatus on traveling to other states for tournaments.
He is fairly confident teams will return to Legion ball for 2021 since this was the No. 1 Legion baseball state in the nation in 2019 with 366 teams registered. Legion baseball in Minnesota goes back to 1926.