Playing baseball was something many high schools thought might not happen for another year.
Instead, many are heading back to the diamond Monday.
Area high schools have established summer leagues and pickup games to get players to return to the field.
Several schools in the Western Buckeye League, along with Lima Senior, Liberty-Benton, Columbus Grove and Kalida, have scheduled summer games and a Van Wert County League that features, Delphos Jefferson, Delphos St. John’s, Lincolnview, Crestview and Van Wert will begin a round-robin schedule Monday.
Delphos Jefferson head coach Doug Geary and Shawnee head coach Chad Spencer said they are happy everything worked out .
“The big picture is that we are just excited to get out and get some games played,” Geary said.
Spencer said it took a lot of work and ironing out details to play this year.
“When we decided to cancel the ACME season our board had talked about the caveat that if, and that was a longtime ago, if baseball became doable or permissible that we wanted to make sure that normally schools that have played ACME got a chance to play,” Spencer said. “We got that it was going to be a local or regional decision which is exactly what it came down to.”
Spencer added that once Gov. Mike DeWine announced that non contact sports such as baseball could be played under certain guidelines May 26, the high school coaches began to figure out what was feasible.
“Honestly the OHSAA (Ohio High School Athletic Association) had no clue he was going to say that so they were not prepared and I know that from a good source because I’m on the state coaches’ board,”Spencer said. “He (DeWine) makes that statement and says you have to follow the guidelines and the guidelines hadn’t even been released.”
After the OHSAA and Ohio Department of Health guidelines were released, Spencer said the work began on formulating a plan and that included working with local health departments, and soon school administrators were on the phone with them to see what exactly needed to be done for baseball to happen.
“It became up to each local county and school district to decide how they wanted to proceed if at all so and some schools got the clearance to compete following protocols to compete June 1 as far as games go and other schools like mine, you could start practicing June 1 but you couldn’t have any contest until June 15,” Spencer said. “There are other schools in Allen County and I think Elida is one that can’t play any games until June 29.”
Spencer added that once the details were worked out with other coaches, schedules were started and he called it a logistical nightmare because of the uncertainty of when the season might start as well as different restrictions placed on certain schools.
“What would have been my original ACME schedule would be represented on this, but we are asking everybody not to use the term ACME because we are not affiliated with anything this summer and that is simply in light of not wanting to sanction any games as an organization.” Spencer said. “Our big concern with that was tournament play and the administration of that. We just turned it over to every individual school and their superintendent, their athletic director and their coach.”
Geary said putting together a schedule was not as difficult because they were primarily playing Van Wert County League schools and after some zoom meetings all the coaches came up with a game plan.
“We had really good communication with coaches to make this happen,” Geary said. “We wanted to be realistic but we also wanted to have all the ideas we could come up with.
“That gives us 12 games and we previously had a schedule on top of the county games and we rescheduled games with Kalida, Bath and Spencerville. We are looking at three games a week for five weeks.”
Getting players to come out was not a problem. For Spencer, he had enough players where he could have a varsity team that consist of juniors, seniors and graduating seniors and a junior varsity with incoming freshmen and sophomores.
“I invited my graduating seniors if they wanted to play because they got shut out there and if they are it is super great,” Spencer said. “It is nice to have them around, and it gives them a chance to play ball.”
Six of the nine 2020 Jefferson graduates will also be playing, however, they might not see as much playing time.
“We opened up to our seniors and six of them reached out about playing,” Geary said. “Big picture, those guys are going to get a chance to play because they missed their senior year and have done a lot of good things for our program but we also have to look at next year too. There is going to be a happy medium there.”
All of Shawnee’s home games will be played at the high school on the varsity diamond.
However, for Delphos Jefferson, Geary said even though they are allowed to practice at the school, their games will be played at Stadium Park.
Guidelines set forth by the Ohio Department of health and the OHSAA will be enforced at all the games for spectators and players.
“I think each venue we go to is probably going to be a little different as far as how the home team wants to set things up,” Geary said. “I think there is going to be some areas where there will be marked out where our guys can spread out a little outside the dugout and that is going to have to be coordinated with the fans too so they understand where we have to space out and move to. Luckily we can make it happen and get out and go play some games.”