TORRINGTON – American Legion baseball teams from around the state of Wyoming officially received word on Saturday, May 2, they can begin practice this week for the 2020 season with restrictions in place for safety of the players and coaches amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the restrictions, the consensus is the team is happy to finally get going for the 2020 season.
“First, we are happy we have a chance to get on the field. It’s been a long time coming,” Tiger coach Rob Mortimore said. “The restrictions will be something different. It’ll be something we have to get used to. We’ll adapt each day and change day-by-day, depending on where the state goes with the guidelines.”
One of the key guidelines is no more than nine people – including coaches and players – on the field at a time. With the varsity team having 12 players registered, the Tigers will be broken down into two groups on two fields at the Torrington Sports Complex.
“We’ll have guys in the cages and guys on the field,” Mortimore said. “We’ll go about an hour and then we’ll switch. It’ll take up a little more time, but as far as myself, the board and statewide, we are at the point where we are going to do anything we can to make sure these kids have a season.”
The two groups will have to stay separate and will have different entrances and different exits, and the team will have to disinfect everything when they make the switch.
Things get a little more complicated with the junior Legion team, whose roster features 18 players this season.
“Our younger team will have a little bit more of a challenge,” Mortimore said. “We’ve got 18 kids registered, and there are three coaches down there helping out. Right now, each one will have a group of six. We’ll rotate them every 30 minutes.”
The team is hopeful this stage of restrictions will be short-lived.
“We’ll take every precaution we can. The last thing we want is for someone in a program anywhere in the state to get sick, and all of the sudden, that team is shut down for 14 days – and probably the state,” Mortimore said. “We are going to take all the precautions and do what we can do to make sure the kids are safe, make sure the atmosphere is safe, the environment is safe, and mainly get them out there and let them have some fun.”
The team hopes by Friday, May 15, when Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon is scheduled to release his new guidelines, restrictions will continue to be lifted.
“One of the restrictions and encouragements is to stay within the state of Wyoming to play our games,” Mortimore said. “We are reworking the schedule a little bit. We’ll probably play the same teams over and over again, but if that’s what we have to do, that’s what we are going to do.”
The Tigers were scheduled to begin games on Sunday, May 17, against Douglas, but due to the fact, Douglas can’t start practice until May 15, that game will be rescheduled at a later date.
The next scheduled game on Wednesday, May 27, is still intact at this time, but the biggest key for that to take place is being able to get at least up to 50 people in the same environment at the same time.
“That’ll allow us to have games without spectators in the stands,” Mortimore said. “Most places we play on or around the state, outside of maybe a couple, have places where people can park around the field, stay in their cars and view the game that way.”
The team is aiming to play 30-35 games this summer, including a district tournament and state tournament.
One of the big hurdles on the scheduling front is for the second annual Dean Bullock Memorial Tournament, which is scheduled to be held June 12-14.
Those dates now fall on the weekend of the rescheduled graduation for the Goshen County School District.
“Now with graduation on the 13th for Goshen County, that throws a wrinkle in some things,” Mortimore said. “We are going to take a look at that and see what we can do to move that around to a Thursday, Friday instead of a Friday, Saturday, Sunday and stick with Wyoming teams.”
Despite the challenges the restrictions will present the 2020 edition of the Torrington Tigers, they are taking it day-by-day in anticipation of the season.
“There will be some new challenges this year. I’ve talked with the guys a few times before we get going (Monday), and they are excited to get on the field. They obviously don’t like the guidelines having to stay separate, but they are at the point right now, let’s just go,” Mortimore said. “We’ll make the most of it. It could work to our benefit, as far as having kids get more reps being separated, more reps offensively and defensively being separate for a while.”
List of restrictions as set forth by the Wyoming American Legion:
ν Wyoming teams will follow any state health orders issued by Gov. Mark Gordon and State Health Officer Alexia Harrist, including: Order No. 2 – the statewide public health order forbidding gatherings of 10 people or more has been continued through May 15, 2020. A countywide variance order that is less restrictive or more restrictive than the statewide order may be requested by the county health officer and approved by the state health officer. County health officers may also request exceptions to specific provisions contained within the three statewide orders.
ν Wyoming teams will follow any county health orders issued in their home counties
ν No Wyoming teams will play games during this time.
ν No more than nine people (including coaches and players allowed on any one field at a time, with different entrances and different exits required for groups. If adjacent field or batting cage is available, separate entrances/exits are required. No intermingling.
ν Healthy participants only – coaches and players. No spectators/parents/media allowed in the facility.
ν Players will stay more than six feet a part from each other
ν No team water jugs; no sunflower seeds; bring your own drinks, use your own
ν Dugouts, locker rooms and indoor facilities are closed
ν No scrimmages/modified games allowed during this initial practice time
ν No intermingling (cross-pollination) of players allowed as one group leaves the field and another enters
ν Required hand washing: Hand washing stations/hand sanitizer stations will be available for players; team will provide these stations at the field
ν If restrooms are open, they will be cleaned after each nine-group practice
ν Equipment storage area cleaned after each practice by coach/board member.
ν Batting gloves required; bats cleaned after every practice
ν Each player will have a batting helmet, and the helmet will be assigned to the player only. Helmet cleaning required after each practice by coach/board member. For 2020, multi-colored helmets, such as those from past years are approved for use.
ν Catchers gear assigned to catchers. No swapping of gear. Catchers gear cleaning after every practice by coach/board member.
ν Practice balls cleaned after every practice
ν Coaches/board members cleaning off all areas prior to and after practices