Vince Schmitz

Monona Braves player/manager Vince Schmitz is happy the Home Talent League baseball season will be starting July 4. The league's executive board has established some guidelines aimed at keeping players, fans and umpires safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Home Talent League baseball will be back in action July 4, but teams are required to follow guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as approved by league’s executive board June 6.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of keeping players and spectators safe,” said league president Pat Reilly. “While it will be a challenge to monitor spectators, every measure should be taken to stress the importance of social distancing and staying away from the dugout areas for both the home and visiting teams. Safety of the players and team officials remains necessary at all times.”

Rules established

Among the guidelines teams must follow:

  • Dugouts will be sprayed with sanitizing solution before and after games and practices. Hand sanitizer will be available in both dugouts with players encouraged to use it during the game and practice.
  • The six-foot rule must be observed in the dugout. This could mean no more than two or three players are allowed in the dugout at one time. The rest of the team may sit in chairs (players should bring their own) outside the dugout and follow the six-foot rule. Players can rotate from chairs to dugout as the batting order dictates.
  • Players are encouraged to provide their own helmet, bat and batting gloves, and not share these items. They should bring their own hydration and not share. Shared water coolers are not allowed.
  • All shared equipment including bats, helmets and catching gear must be sanitized before and after each use. Spitting is prohibited, and chewing tobacco, gum and seeds are not allowed. Players – especially pitchers – are not allowed to moisten their hands with their mouths.
  • Face masks are encouraged except when playing or coaching a base. Players should social distance from each other (six feet) as much as possible. This same rule should apply during player meetings.
  • Players should determine beforehand if they are sick and stay home if they are not feeling well.
  • The league will continue to operate if guidelines are followed and the virus stays under control. If a player tests positive for COVID-19, he must be quarantined for 14 days. It is strongly suggested each player, umpire and team official gets tested before the next game. If the opposing team the next week does not want to play the team with the infected player the game will be made up or cancelled. The executive board will also meet with public health officials to determine if league play should continue.
  • Players should arrive to the ballpark and leave alone, and avoid gathering by cars in the parking lot or other areas.
  • Players and coaches should refrain from touching each other in celebration through high fives, fist bumps, elbow touches. Handshake lines are not allowed. No physical contact is to take place with teammates, opponents, umpires and fans. After a game a “Tip of the Cap” is acceptable between both teams.
  • Concessions will be dictated by local rules and regulations. Fans should observe social distancing in grandstands, bleachers and in lawn chairs. This should be conveyed by the game managers and the use of signs.
  • The home team will supply baseballs for the game. It is recommended that each team receives three baseballs before the game and keeps them until conclusion of the game. Pitchers take one ball with them to the mound when it is their turn to pitch with the other two balls placed on the ground near the home plate umpire. After each half inning, the umpire will roll the balls toward the dugout of the team leaving the field.
  • Line-up exchange should also use social distancing as much as possible to avoid touching. After the umpire accepts the line-ups, substituting should be done verbally as much as possible.

League playoffs are scheduled for Sept. 13 and 20 with more details soon to come.Teams are required to follow local and league guidelines, although procedures may be different for each playing field.

The executive board emphasized the success of this season is in the hands of the teams and their management, and players, fans and umpires should do all they can to stay safe.

Excitement by Monona Braves

Vince Schmitz, player/manager for the Monona Braves said the team is excited to get back to playing baseball.

“Our team is giddy about the opportunity to get back on the field and ready to play after this extended off-season,” Schmitz said. “Hopefully some of us older guys have used the extra weeks off to keep our bodies in Home Talent playing shape.”

Schmitz added the new guidelines aimed at protecting everyone’s safety will bring a new feel to the game.

“We will be relying heavily on the self-discipline and respect of our players and fans to abide by the extended health and safety guidelines set forth by the league,” Schmitz said. “As much as we want to chew tobacco and spit sunflower seeds, we respect the leagues intentions and will remove that part from our game. I think we all agree that we have a passion for playing baseball but can first and foremost prioritize the health aspect of it all.”

Schmitz is hopeful the Braves will be able to play their home games at Ahuska Park in the abbreviated season and that local health officials will relax rules allowing that to happen.

“If our home field is still closed for play by local government health officials, our team will look for other fields to play at within the surrounding area,” Schmitz said. “Even with a shortened season, the Monona Braves will not give up on the chance for a Home Talent League championship.”

The Braves have not missed the postseason in better than two decades.

In 2019, the team ended with a record of 11-5 to finish second in the Eastern Section, one game behind 12-4 Sun Prairie. Monona beat Montello 3-1 in the section semi-final game but lost to Sun Prairie 7-5 to miss out on a trip to the league’s final four round.

Cottage Grove, Monona’s biggest rival, is hoping to get back to the postseason after a 7-9 finish in 2019. The Firemen reached the final four in 2018, but lost two out of three games.

After missing the playoffs for the past several seasons, McFarland will try to make a recovery in 2020 after ending last season with a 5-11 record.

The Muskies lost seven games in a row in 2019 before sweeping Waterloo in a season-ending doubleheader.

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