APPLETON – Kevin Kostelecky only needed a few words to sum up the prospects for youth baseball this summer in the city.
“It’s about as clear as mud,” the Appleton Little League baseball and softball president said. “We’ve been going back and forth, but there’s so many things here and we’ve been trying to get good communication out to our membership on Facebook and our website … it’s been difficult.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed sports from professional to youth throughout most of the country. But this coming week could possibly offer more answers for youth baseball in the city as the special subset of the Little League board of directors meets Tuesday.
Kostelecky said that the subset was created in March and that the original plan was to open after May 26, when the original safer-at-home order was issued by Gov. Tony Evers. The recent Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling to end the Evers order has put things in upheaval with regards to when to possibly start the Little League season.
The state’s Department of Health Services recommends that “all youth sporting events planned for this spring and summer be postponed or canceled due to the spread of COVID-19” until certain benchmarks are established in the governor’s Badger Bounce Back plan, but also acknowledges that the situation is fluid and will be reevaluated once Wisconsin “has seen progress in the ‘gating criteria,’ including a sustained downward trend in COVID-19 cases and the ability of hospitals and health systems to treat all patients.”
Clouding the issue is that Little League uses many of the Appleton school district’s fields, which are closed until June 30.
“Our task force has kind of said that we’re probably going to follow the most strictest of guidelines,” Kostelecky said. “We’re going to offer an extended registration and deregistration period so where people can sign up from anywhere. We’ve had people from Ripon wanting to play with us. So if we do go ahead with a season we’re going to accept people from as far as they want to travel to play with us.
“But again those things haven’t been approved by our board yet either. We’re in limbo right now.”
Macs, Legends eye July 1 start to season
Details of a possible season aren’t necessarily much clearer for the Menasha Macs and Appleton Legends, a pair of teams in the Northeastern Wisconsin Baseball League.
Appleton beat Menasha last year for the NEWBL title, but Legends manager Rick Riddle said the 2020 season is tentatively set to begin July 1.
“There’s a lot of things Legends are putting together in terms of safety protocols and guidelines to document before a ‘go’ decision is reached,” Riddle said. “There is a group representing six baseball leagues and we’re sharing ideas, issues to address. A couple leagues plan to start the first weekend in June. Our league (NEWBL) plans to begin its season on July 1 and finish last week in August. The season will be different for each team as each municipality may have its own set of safety rules. I’m trying to reschedule as many games as I can, so we’ll see.”
Menasha Macs manager/board member Jason Wierschke said his team is in “the same boat” as the others.
“A lot of it is up in the air. We’re waiting on some guidelines from the city. We’re in the league with the Legends and we’re going to meet within the next week or so and give ourselves a guideline or more of a timeline and we kind of set up a July 1 date,” Wierschke said. “The reason for that is we’re going to follow the MLB timeline. To give it some merit of why we chose that date. Then with everything going on it’s kind of wait and see. Hopefully we get more answers n the next week so we can go in with a plan that baseball is soon coming back.”