01STOCK_BASEBALL

The Milton Junction Pub Raptors have waited nearly a month to get their baseball season going.

Now they will wait even longer.

The Raptors’ exhibition opener tonight against the Fort Atkinson Generals has been canceled due to concern for public health after a Fort Atkinson player reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.

The Generals and Jefferson Blue Devils scheduled an exhibition game to be played Thursday night at Jones Park.

Mid-afternoon Thursday, the Blue Devils announced on their Facebook page the game had been canceled.

Shortly thereafter, the Generals shared the post and canceled the game, as well as the scheduled game tonight against the Raptors.

The cancellations come two weeks before the July 4 opening day for the Sunday portion of the Home Talent League season. The league typically begins in early May, but the start was pushed back twice in recent months due to restrictions and regulations surrounding the pandemic.

Milton plays in the Rock River League, and its regular season—which was also postponed—is scheduled to begin June 28.

Fort Atkinson manager Sam Hartwick addressed the public health risk in a comment on the team’s Facebook post.

“A player on our team tested positive for COVID-19. We found out this afternoon,” Hartwick said. “I will not tell you who the player is, nor is it my information to share. All players who were in direct contact with this player are in the process of being tested and will be quarantined.

“The player who tested positive feels terrible. Not physically from the virus, but mentally because he feels guilty. He feels as if he let our team down. He feels as if he let our fans down. And he feels he let himself down. He followed all the guidelines and wanted to play at Jones Park tonight as much as anyone else.

“Instead of theorizing or criticizing, let’s lift up our teammate. Let’s show some support. We’ll be back on the field, but we won’t be doing so until it’s safe for our team and for our fans.”

The exhibition Thursday night was going to be the first time the Generals had played at Jones Park in 2020.

Rome Park has become a refuge for those yearning for a live sports fix—one attendee said in an email, “We at Rome have been enjoying great crowds not witnessed since the 1970s and 1980s with people coming from Dane, Rock, Waukesha (and) Dodge counties.”

Elsewhere in the county, the Lake Mills Grays have decided to forgo the 2020 season out of caution for public health, according to a statement released Tuesday by Lake Mills assistant manager and statistician Kirk Lund.

“In the absence of a vaccine or proven treatment, the only proven weapons that we have to fight COVID-19 are isolation, physical distancing, face mask wearing, and handwashing,” Lund said. “These precautions are difficult or impossible to maintain while playing baseball. Thus, we concluded that it would be in the best interest of our ball club that we not play baseball in 2020.

“The Grays have every intention of fielding a team for the 2021 HTL Season, if science and medicine have ended the pandemic with a treatment and/or vaccine for COVID-19.”

In the weeks between the normal start date and the postponed start of the season, teams around the 41-team league were scheduling exhibition games to be played at parks where baseball was permitted. For the most part, that place has been Rome Park, which is in the Town of Sullivan.

The Generals played a doubleheader against the Rome Raiders on Sunday—they lost both games. Rome Park hosted Fort Atkinson and Jefferson for a doubleheader of their own Saturday, June 6—Jefferson won both games.

Fort Atkinson is scheduled to host Poynette in a doubleheader on June 27. Whether those games will be played has not been determined.

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