American Legion baseball has been canceled for the 2020 season, but there is a plan in the works to give area high school players an opportunity to play some games in July and August.
Along with that news, the Home Talent League has announced tentative plans to begin league play Friday and Saturday, July 3 and 4.
For the first time since 1927, there will not be an American Legion Baseball champion in Wisconsin. The Legion season became the latest sports cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everyone involved in our program hoped to have American Legion Baseball in 2020, but this was a necessary decision,” Wisconsin American Legion Baseball Commissioner Roger Mathison said in a news release.
Mathison said the final decision was made by the executive committee Saturday after the board of directors recommended Wednesday that the season be scrapped.
The health of players, coaches, umpires, parents, fans and volunteers, as well as uncertain facility availability and travel concerns led to the final decision.
“We fully expect to have our program return in 2021 and be played at a high level,” Mathison wrote in the press release.
Bob Schenck, the co-administrator of the Rock County River Monsters American Legion team along with Beloit’s Scott Huffman, has a tentative plan developing to give area high school players a chance at playing games before the summer is over.
Schenck has received tentative commitments from players out of Janesville Craig, Janesville Parker, Evansville, Middleton, Milton, Beloit Turner and Beloit Memorial to field teams in a league that tentatively will begin play July 2 if it is permitted by the state and city.
Teams would not receive any assistance from the high schools. In Janesville, the American Legion would fund uniforms and equipment for the two Janesville teams.
Under the tentative plan, varsity games will be played Thursdays and Sundays, and if there is enough players, junior varsity games would be held Tuesdays and Saturdays.
“Everything is very flexible,” Schenck said with a chuckle. “We’re just trying to plan ahead to get the kids some games. All the coaches I’ve talked to, they can have their seniors play.”
The eight teams would be part of the 2020 Summer Varsity League, Schenck said.
“One of the problems is like with Turner, their home field is at the high school,” Schenck said. “They can’t use the high school field because school is closed. Middleton, their home field is at the high school, so I don’t know how this is going to work.”
The Janesville teams will need the city’s permission to use Veterans Field at Riverside Park.
Schenck, who is in his 17th year of being the groundskeeper at the diamond, has been keeping Veterans Field in top shape this spring. Along with his son, Ben, and Kerry Michaels, Schenck has painted the dugouts, cleaned the warning track, dragged the infield and mowed the field every four days.
With the WIAA canceling the high school season, the Janesville Legion lost approximately $15,000 in expected revenue between rental fees charged to Craig and Parker to use Veterans Field at Riverside Park, concessions and a planned fundraiser this month.
Schenck has not installed the windscreens around the outfield fence in case spectators will be placed out there to follow social distancing requirements.
“I feel sorry for the kids,” Schenck said. “We’re just trying to do something to get them some games. This is what we’ve got so far.”
The decision to cancel the American Legion program this summer was monumental. A total of 217 teams participated in the Wisconsin Legion program last season. That total made it the fourth-largest program in the country behind Minnesota (366 teams), Nebraska (271) and Pennsylvania (253).
The Legion All-Star game scheduled Aug. 9 at Miller Park also has been canceled.
The news was optimistic—although just as tentative—out of the Home Talent League.
The HTL executive board announced that it was setting Friday and Saturday, July 3-4, as opening dates for league teams.
“Of course this starting date hinges on how our state and local governments are allowing contact, use of facilities, social distancing, etc. at that time,” a news release from the HTL executive board reported. “We will continue working toward a July 4 start date and will keep teams informed of the process.”