ELY – The Ely School Board met in special session Monday night to approve a request from the Ely Baseball Association to re-open the ISD 696 ball park to facilitate some form of the summer …
ELY – The Ely School Board met in special session Monday night to approve a request from the Ely Baseball Association to re-open the ISD 696 ball park to facilitate some form of the summer tradition.
While all spring sports were canceled as school closures and distance learning protocols were put in place because of the coronavirus, Ely and many other communities are planning and hoping for a hybrid summer baseball program.
With the school board’s approval, practices started on Wednesday for youth baseball players, but if and when actual games will be played is anybody’s guess. According to the Minnesota Department of Health and Phase 2 of the Stay-at-Home orders, youth baseball organizations can only practice and train.
In making his request to the school board, Ely American Legion Coach and School Athletic Director Tom Coombe said games will only be allowed in a subsequent phase of the state’s “Stay Safe” order.
Prior to the school board’s unanimous approval to open Veterans Memorial field for the summer, Superintendent Erik Erie reported to school board members that the school district’s attorney drafted a lease agreement with the local baseball association that is in effect for June, July and August of this year.
“Our attorney, insurance carrier, and Minnesota School Board Association all agree that the (ISD 696) is following the right protocols in all steps,” he said.
The American Legion baseball season is canceled for 2020, and Coombe said Ely and other programs, for players age 19 and under, will affiliate under the Senior Babe Ruth umbrella. For players 17 and under, Ely will move from Junior Legion to VFW baseball. The Iron Range Baseball League, for players age 13 and 14, will go forward if games are allowed.
The Ely Baseball Association developed protocols for the 2020 season out of an abundance of caution for players, coaches, umpires and fans due to COVID-19.
• Players and coaches must have their temperature checked prior to every practice session and game. Those with temperatures above 100.3 will not be allowed to participate.
• Individuals should wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with warm water and soap before participating in any workouts. Players and coaches are encouraged to use sanitizing wipes after contact with any shared equipment.
• Social distancing is required in the dugout, outside the dugout and at the ballpark.
• Workouts in “pods” of 10 or less are required with no crossover between groups.
• Essential personnel only are permitted on field of play and in dugout.
• Parents and fans are encouraged to social distance while at the ballpark.
• Masks are not required to be worn by players, umpires, coaches or spectators.
• Players are encouraged to provide their own hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.
• Players are encouraged to bring their own water or beverage to consume. No shared coolers.
• In the event of a player or coach testing positive for COVID-19, health officials will be notified and direction sought for next steps.
• The Ely Baseball Association requests that the school district provide hot water in the bathroom facilities.
• Once games begin, and if concessions are allowed, the Ely Baseball Association will take appropriate steps to ensure safe operations.
School board member James Pointer asked for clarification on the draft safety protocols, including social distancing in the dugout and keeping the baseball sanitized while the game is in progress.
“We are limiting the dugout to not more than five players at any one time,” Coombe said. Players will be directed to occupy the space outside and around the dugout when necessary.
“During play, the ball is shared equipment. Is there any way to mitigate that?” Pointer asked.
“Other than stopping play to run out onto the field and wipe down the ball after a hit, no,” Coombe said. “I haven’t seen that requested anywhere. We will use our due diligence and as much common sense as we can without going overboard and making things too cumbersome.”
School board chair Ray Marnik reiterated the fact that no games are allowed at this point.
“In this phase of the ‘stay safe’ order, practices are allowed.” Coombe said. “When and if we get to the next phase, games will be allowed. Whether that is in two weeks, three weeks or a month, we don’t know. We are hopeful that at some point this summer we will get to a point where we are playing games.”
He noted that a local physician reviewed the safety guidelines.
“He is very supportive of what we are doing,” Coombe said.