Add Legion and VFW baseball to the list of sports that won’t be played in Minnesota this summer due to the novel coronavirus.
Minnesota American Legion Baseball canceled the 2020 season in a statement released Saturday, May 9. It’s the first time there will be no Legion season since 1923.
“Safety has always been important in American Legion Baseball,” Director of Minnesota American Legion Baseball Randy Schaub said in the statement. “As much as we wanted to play this year, we cannot take chances with the players, coaches and fans we oversee.”
Some Legion coaches in the Brainerd lakes area are frustrated with the decision.
“I’m not sure why they called it so soon,” Brainerd Legion coach Dave Peterson said. “They pushed it back so we could play until July or August, and I assumed they would push it off. I was surprised they pulled the plug.”
Peterson mentioned the first game on the schedule for Brainerd Legion was not until June 11.
Pillager Legion head coach Paul Jenkins shared Peterson’s frustration with no Legion season.
“I was very disappointed,” Jenkins said. “I felt they could have found a way.”
Jenkins also coaches the Pillager high school team. Their season was canceled two weeks ago, after Gov. Tim Walz extended the stay at home order in Minnesota.
Once the high school season was over, Jenkins felt the legion season was next.
If it didn’t get canceled, Jenkins says legion baseball could have been played up until football season. Nevertheless, it’s just another season lost.
“We probably had the best possible team ever at Pillager this year,” Jenkins said. “We would have been very good, and I had great kids who worked hard and loved baseball. They all wanted to play Legion ball this summer.”
Peterson mentioned an opportunity sent by Baxter Parks and Recreation coordinator Joe Pohlkamp to play Babe Ruth Baseball. Babe Ruth Baseball, a league with players up to 18 years old, has yet to cancel for the season.
“It’s not big in Minnesota, but I know Bemidji and a couple others are going to do it,” Peterson said. “So we will push for that if we can get some games in.”
Peterson also isn’t holding his breath that baseball will be back in the near future.
“This team was going to be good,” Peterson said of the Brainerd Legion team. “They already have four Division II pitchers already signed. It kind of hurts those kids a little bit, but it’s the other kids who if we don’t get anything arranged aren’t coming back.”
Adding to the frustration is seeing South Dakota Legion Baseball decide to move forward with the summer season, the same day Minnesota canceled.
“The only word is frustration,” Peterson said. “That’s all it is.”
Jenkins mentioned this is the first time in 37 years he won’t be coaching baseball. The 61-year-old also said he has been playing amateur baseball for the Nisswa Lightning the past 45 years and that’s in jeopardy, too.
“I’m going nuts, to tell you the truth,” Jenkins said.