LIMA — The Lima Locos won’t get the chance to defend their title this summer.
The wood-bat Great Lakes Collegiate League ended all the speculation and officially canceled its season on Wednesday.
In the end, the league felt there were too many health concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
That comes just over two weeks after the league originally pushed back the start of its season from the first week in June to July 1.
“In the light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting government regulations, the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League Board of Directors has voted to cancel the 2020 season,” GLCL commissioner Deron Brown said in a Wednesday morning release. “The directors determined it would be impossible to operate effectively while insuring the safety of all involved.’’
The Locos were originally scheduled to start the year on Friday, June 5, at Grand Lake in Celina.
Brown expects all 12 teams, including Lima and Grand Lake, to return next summer.
“We look forward to bringing you the best summer collegiate baseball in the Midwest in 2021,” Brown said.
The wood-bat Cape Cod League canceled its season in late April.
The GLCL’s teams held a meeting late Monday night to look at whether it was truly safe for all to open on July 1. The league reviewed all the updates for businesses, sports and crowds by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
While DeWine recently opened up youth-league baseball and softball, there were also a number of restrictions put in place.
“We were down to six teams, and we were looking at whether we could put together a short schedule starting on July 1,” Locos general manager Tim Clark said. “At first, the announcement to open up baseball and softball gave us some excitement.’’
But further examination of the restrictions found that the GLCL would have many obstacles to comply. With social distancing rules, the Locos would need to rent five or six vans for the team and coaches to travel.
“We kicked it around (on Monday) and two more teams dropped out, which left us with four teams,” Clark said. “We said if we ever got down to four teams, that was it.
“It (opening baseball back up) was directed toward youth sports. There was no sharing of the equipment (with bats and helmets). We would have had to extend the dugouts. … And there would be no concessions. That’s huge for us.’’
Many of the teams have players coming from multiple states. The Locos have players from many regions of the country.
With the coronavirus, there were multiple concerns around the league, including the housing of the players.
There were other critical safety concerns for the players and all involved with the team. Would there be testing? Would there be temperature checks?
“It would have come down to self-evaluation and self-reporting,” Clark said with team doctor Dr. Bill Leahy on hand.
How would travel and housing be handled safely? How far away would players have to sit in the dugouts? How would that work with players using bats, helmets, pine tar rags, ball bags, etc.? Would there be fans? If so, how many would be allowed to attend?
“We would have had to do social distancing with the (limited number of) fans,” Clark said.
For the Locos, it would difficult on several levels to operate a season without fans. The Locos are always one of the top-drawing teams in the league, and a good portion of the team’s income comes from tickets, concessions and souvenirs, such as team hats and T-shirts.
“There were just too many restrictions to make it work,” Clark said. “It just wasn’t possible.’’
GLCL members Cincinnati, St. Clair (Ontario) and Southern Ohio were the first teams to decide not to field a team this summer.
Since the May 4 league meeting, Michigan, Xenia and Richmond announced they would not field a team.
On Monday night, the Ohio Bison (formerly Licking County) and Hamilton dropped out.
That left the league with four teams.
The Michigan Monarchs left the league this year, while Sandusky returned to the GLCL.
The Locos won the GLCL championship last year. They defeated Licking County two games to one in the best-of-three championship series.
The Locos have won six GLCL championships (1993, 2004, 2011, 2015, 2017 and 2019).
Clark knows the Locos and the league made the right decision. But it’s still tough to accept a summer with no baseball.
“It’s my first year as full-time GM, and we would have had a good team and a good staff,” Clark said. “I’m disappointed in that respect. At the same time, it would have been a terrible fan experience and a bad player experience.”
Clark added that Simmons Field was re-sodded in the fall, and the complex will be ready to go next summer.
“Hopefully we can do some housekeeping and some renovations this year,” Clark said. “I’m disappointed we’re not playing baseball, but we never had a chance.”