Alaska Legion Baseball coaches are meeting virtually on Tuesday with the Alliance for ALB in Alaska to discuss how to move forward with a summer baseball season while complying with COVID-19 health mandates and regulations outlined in the Reopen Alaska Responsibly Plan.
The meeting follows a series of events that began last Monday when the American Legion national organisation announced it was halting all sponsorship and national involvement in baseball for the 2020 season.
The Alliance, a nonprofit organization that helps support Alaska Legion Baseball, announced in a press release the following day that it would “create a league and manage daily operations of an unofficial season that would closely resemble a traditional Legion experience for players ages 13 to 19.”
“We have a lot of confidence going forward that there are going to be games in Fairbanks,” Alliance president Steve Nerland said over the phone on Friday.
“We appreciate that everyone has the right to their opinion and we know that there may be players or their parents choose not to have them play and we totally respect that,” he added.
Nerland cited mid-June as a hopeful starting point for the season, but also mentioned that games would likely not be able to begin until Phase 3 of the Reopen Alaska Responsibly Plan is introduced.
“The challenge we are facing right now (in Phase 2) is … that we would be able to have practices with groups of under 50, but it would be hard to have a game, because you have 16 players, two or three coaches times two, a couple umpires and a scorer and you’re almost at 50.”
In Phase 3, he hopes a larger number of people would be able to legally gather, allowing for parents and siblings to attend games.
“We don’t believe we would want to have a season where there are no fans. We are not Korean baseball. It is a family type of atmosphere,” Nerland said. “So we are hoping that Phase 3 allows us to play games and put a schedule together for the teams that are opting in to play.”
The Fairbanks 49ers and the Alaska Wild, the two local Alaska Legion clubs, have both said they are on board with the Alliance’s proposal.
49ers head coach Rod Perdue and Wild head coach Ray Pulsifer also said that if the Alliance is unable to coordinate a season, they will make sure summer baseball of some kind is still played in the Interior.
“If Alliance is not ready to proceed, Rod and I are still going to proceed with basically just Alaska Wild Baseball Club practices, and Rod and I will play each other. If we have to play each other 25 times, then we will do so,” Pulsifer said over the phone on Friday.
“I have seniors on this team that lost their senior season of high school, so this is their last opportunity to probably play baseball before they go off to college or trade school or wherever they’re going to go,” Pulsifer added. “So we are doing this for the kids.”
Pulsifer held tryouts for the Wild on Saturday and Sunday at Arco Field, following a list of guidelines he created to ensure all state health mandates were being followed.
The guidelines included restrictions on the number of players allowed in the dugout at a time, a required 10-foot spacing between players not belonging to the same household and mandatory sanitation procedures. Nearly 40 athletes participated.
Perdue is planning to hold registration and a field cleanup day for the 49ers on Tuesday and Wednesday at Marlin Field.
“The guys can definitely maintain a 6-feet separation while they’re raking and picking up trash and those types of things,” he said over the phone on Sunday.
Like Pulsifer, Perdue also mentioned the particular importance of summer league baseball this season.
“I honestly do feel an even greater sense of urgency and responsibility, especially for the seniors. Pretty much all of these guys, I’ve been seeing them and coaching them since they were 7, 8, 9 years old and this is their final hurrah.
“Your senior season and your senior year you dream about for so long and to not be able to participate in it I know is a big blow. But we need to be able to do everything we can to, for lack of a better term, make up for not having a senior season and make this as meaningful for them as possible.
“We are going to get it done one way or another.”
Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.