Baseball practice is back for now, but with some restrictions

Jason Huggins, manager of the Jackson Post 43 Giants American Legion Team, talks to the U15 players before the first practice of the season earlier this month. The season had been in doubt.

As restrictions on gatherings ease across the state, real-life, in-person nine-versus-nine baseball games will be underway on Saturday.

Wyoming American Legion baseball wasted little time getting the 2020 summer season booked following Gov. Mark Gordon’s decision to extend public gatherings to 25, up from 10. Over the weekend Wyoming Legion chairman Cody Beers released protocols for a return to play, which opened the door for the Jackson Post 43 Giants to schedule the team’s first weekend of baseball, with games Saturday and Sunday in Gillette.

Most notable among the restrictions will be the strict limits on who can be on the field and when. With only 25 people on the playing field at a time, which includes occupying dugouts, the nine players in the lineup for both teams will be allowed on the field. Then two coaches for each side will be allowed, along with two umpires.

The home plate umpire will be required to wear a mask and gloves, and remaining players for each team not in the lineup will have to stay outside the fencing around the field.

“It’s going to be weird. We can’t have team meetings after the games. In between innings kids have to sanitize. There won’t be huddles of any sort,” Jackson manager Jason Huggins said. “But we’re going to do whatever we’ve got to do to make our kids play baseball and be safe.”

Huggins said six teams are scheduled to compete in Gillette, with Jackson, Gillette, Evanston, Sheridan, Casper and Cheyenne slated to take the field.

According to Beers’ memo, teams will enter the ball park when called to do so by cellphone by a local tournament director or Wyoming Department of American Legion staff.

“[Two] teams will enter, prepare, play, leave, and then two more teams will enter after dugouts, restrooms are cleaned,” the memo reads. “Expect 30 minutes after a game ends before the next two teams are allowed to enter facilities. Warm-up period may take place at another facility, and batting cages may/may not be available.”

In a deviation from the outlines presented for a return to games earlier this month, fans and parents will be allowed to attend, albeit under strict social distancing guidelines.

Each team’s board of directors will police grandstand seating with strict 6-foot distancing being enforced; the only exception will be immediate family allowed to stand together.

It’s a long list of restrictions, and surely game day this weekend will look much different than it did last time the Giants took the field, back in August 2019 with a state championship on the line.

Huggins said he had no clue what his lineup looks like, which would be the focus of a preview heading into opening weekend any other year. Only Friday was his team able to practice in full, meaning just a little over a week of full-team practices for his players to acclimate to each other and the batting order and pitching rotation beginning to take shape. This weekend should serve as a measuring stick for what his team will look like when it takes Giants Field for the first home game June 5, scheduled against the East Idaho Rockies.

The anxiety hanging over the ball park Saturday and Sunday might feel different, too. Instead of the hum of a crowd and a possible state title on the other side of nine innings, what will mostly keep managers on edge will be ensuring that all goes without a hiccup and baseball moves forward this summer.

Contact Chance Q. Cook at 732-7065, sports@jhnewsandguide.com.

Sports Editor Chance Cook has lived in rural Pennsylvania, upstate New York and Butte, Montana. He is no stranger to spending time in the woods chasing animals. If you see him out, challenge him to a game of pool. Send tips and questions.

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