Baseball players and fans throughout the country have been frustrated with the suspension of the 2020 Major League Baseball season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Now COVID-19 is closing in on the players who carpool to away games and love to play once or twice a week on diamonds throughout south-central Wisconsin in the Home Talent and Rock River leagues.
Guys in their 20s, 30s, 40s and a few in their 50s—who get to play a little hardball in front of hometown crowds that often watch from the comfort of a lawn chair while eating a hot dog from the concession stand—are feeling the effects.
For now, those players need to be satisfied with a game of catch in their yards—from at least 6 feet apart.
In other years, starting in May, they play Thursday nights, Saturdays and Sundays in cities as big as Madison and Janesville and as small as Albion and Farmington.
Both the Rock River and Home Talent leagues were scheduled to begin play Sunday, May 3.
That date has been scrapped. A revised date is up in the air higher than a Mike Trout popup.
“I would imagine the league would make an announcement within a week or two about a potential starting date,” said Doug Welch, manager/general manager of the Milton Junction Pub Raptors of the Rock River League.
The Home Talent League—which has Thursday Night and Sunday leagues—has sent out a memo with a “very tentative” starting date of June 7.
The Raptors were scheduled to go up Highway 26 to play the Watertown Cardinals in their Rock River League opener May 3. Everyone involved will be doing something other than playing baseball that day.
“Throughout the offseason, you are talking to guys about coming on and playing this year,” Welch said. “We were excited about some of the new talent that were going to be joining us.
“I’m sure the schedules will have to be scrambled and play some doubles on weekends and things like that.”
Most teams have college players on their rosters who are home for the summer. With college seasons canceled and students at home, those players are looking forward to this summer season more eagerly than normal.
“Usually you go the first month of the season without those college kids, and that isn’t going to be the case this year,” Welch said. “I just got a couple of texts from (college players) wondering what was going on.
“They are like a bull in a closet.”
The Raptors need to work out the status of their home field at Schilberg Park, although that should not be a problem. Unlike Albion (Albion Park) and Evansville (Lake Leota Park, aka The Jays Nest) that play at public facilities, the Raptors need to work out an agreement with the Milton School District, which runs Schilberg Park.
“We have to respect their decisions,” Welch said. “It’s not that we just go to the park and play. If they say, ‘no go’ then it’s no go.
“There’s a little different layer there when you are dealing with school districts. They are in a tough spot, and so are we.”
So even with the probable reduced schedules and maybe having to play both Saturdays and Sundays, if and when a go-ahead is eventually issued, people involved are not going to argue about it.
“Nobody is going to complain,” Albion manager Matt Towns said. “We just want to play ball.”