KOVAR: Amateur baseball delivers despite all the challenges and uncertainty

There’s just something about amateur baseball in Minnesota that is special.

When I look back 138 days ago, sports were nowhere to be seen. The Minnesota State High School League just canceled spring sports, and it looked like amateur baseball might go down with it. That wasn’t the case.

While the 2020 amateur baseball season didn’t start on time, there was still a season. That meant the world to so many people in so many ways. For sportswriters, it meant we could get back to doing our jobs which was something we were never sure when it would. For communities across the state, it meant an escape from reality a bit even if there were a few changes that needed to be made. For the players, it meant playing the game they love so much.

Back in May, I teamed up with Jeremy Stender, Chris Damman, and Josh Monahan to create an All-Decade Team for the Crow River Valley League. It went over well and it was a good program for people who were craving amateur baseball like we were.

At the end of the broadcast, we all asked each other if we think there will be an amateur baseball season. We all thought there would be at some point, but we didn’t know what it would like.

After missing a month of the season in May, the Minnesota Baseball Association stepped up to the plate. The MBA allowed teams to begin their seasons (with guidelines of course) and the season was underway. June marked the return of amateur baseball to Minnesota.

I won’t lie. Not everything ran smoothly for amateur baseball teams out of the gate. Several teams across the state had a player or players test positive for COVID-19 early in the season. Those teams and players did the right thing and quarantined to keep other teams and players safe. Once cleared, they returned to play.

I remember talking with people in the middle of that stretch that thought this meant the end of amateur baseball. That wasn’t the case, and I’m thankful for that.

Amateur baseball continued with the regular season. Region Tournaments were played under limited attendance along with other strict guidelines. Whatever they needed to do, amateur teams and their communities did whatever they needed to do to keep the season alive.

Then there was the community of Milroy who went above and beyond the call to keep amateur baseball alive. Back on July 24, the New Ulm City Council voted 5-0 against hosting the 2020 Class C State Tournament in New Ulm. That put co-host Springfield, and the MBA in a tough spot with the state tournament scheduled to begin at the end of August.

With just over a month to get ready, the Milroy Yankees stepped to the plate and knocked the duties of hosting a state tournament out of the park. From field conditions to concessions. From tickets for fans and taking care of the media. It’s as if the Yankees had things lined up from the get-go.

It’s been pretty impressive what an amateur baseball team can do on short notice. That goes for all teams around the state. Without you and your ability to adapt to these crazy circumstances, there wouldn’t have been a season. Without the MBA, there would be no season. I thank you for that.

The last sporting event I covered before COVID-19 got going was a playoff basketball game. Once spring sports got canceled, I wasn’t sure when the next game to cover would be. It wasn’t easy dealing with that.

I missed sports. I missed telling the stories of athletes. I even missed typing up box scores.

Amateur baseball has always had a special place in my heart throughout my sports writing career. It’s just different from high school sports for a special reason. Without amateur baseball this summer, I’m not sure where I would be.

I enjoyed the crazy season that was the 2020 amateur baseball season. Congrats to the Farimont Martins on a special run to the Class C title. Congrats to all teams who made it to the Class C State Tournament. Most of all, thank you to all the teams in the MBA who showed that baseball can still be played even in the middle of a global pandemic. Baseball is special. It’s the players and fans around the state that make it even more special. Thanks for doing everything possible to give me another summer of coverage that I won’t forget anytime soon.

One comment

  1. Lloyd Mellberg says:

    Thank you so much Kip. You hit a home run with this article. Well done!