Bismarck Governors American Legion baseball coach Mike Skytland is hoping otherwise, but it looks like the 2020 season is teetering on the edge of extinction.
“My understanding is the North Dakota Legion board, not the baseball board, came out with an announcement canceling baseball and a couple of other activities,” Skytland said on Friday, April 3.
Skytland was reacting to a Thursday announcement the American Legion Department of North Dakota website that the Legion baseball season was being canceled.
“As we continue to monitor updates and recommendations regarding the pandemic spread, our DEC has decided that it’s best to cancel our upcoming events. North Dakota American Legion Baseball, North Dakota Boys State and our annual convention will not take place this year.”
Skytland said he understands it’s not business as usual during the coronavirus outbreak, but he would have appreciated an option to play, depending on how circumstances play out.
“Everybody is having to make tough decisions, and for the persons in charge, all the more so. I know they made the decision for the safety of the kids, but if the facts change and there is an opportunity to play, I’d like to see the kids get to play.”
Skytland said a meeting that would include input from Legion baseball people was imminent as of Thursday afternoon. He’s holding out hope that the Legion will at least reconsider and suspend the season, pending further developments.
“Monitor the situation and look at all the possibilities, such as a short season. I think people would be more willing to accept some changes if the kids get to play some baseball,” Skytland said.
Earlier this spring, the Legion’s national headquarters posted a memo on its website that advised the state Legion departments to tread carefully before embarking on the 2020 baseball season.
“With the number of COVID-19 cases growing daily and state governments limiting social interactions through statewide restrictions, the National American Legion Baseball Committee is strongly encouraging and recommending that American Legion departments put on hold all baseball activities until all restrictions have been lifted,” the memo stated.
Skytland said North Dakota is probably the first state to act on that advisory so emphatically.
“I do not know of another state that has done this. Iowa is in a different situation because they play Legion baseball in the spring. They may have canceled,” he said.
Skytland emphasized he was not recommending that the North Dakota Department of the Legion act irresponsibly in the face of a virus pandemic. He’d just like to see where the health issues lead before shutting down the entire season.
“I didn’t see this coming at all, not now. We have no idea where we’ll be in June, A million things could happen. Look what’s happened in the last three weeks,” he said.
A shutdown would affect 74 teams, nine in Class AA, 17 in Class A and 48 in Class B.
Skytland, the Governors coach for the last 16 seasons, said the possibility of a summer without Legion baseball seems strange, indeed, because all the alternatives are missing, too.
“Everything I would have thought about doing in the summer if I didn’t coach has been taken away, too, all at once,” he noted.
And, he observed, everyone else is in a similar situation.
“It’s changed everything that I normally do. Work, leisure, entertainment, everything is different,” he said. “My routine has been totally changed, and I think that’s true for every American, maybe for the world, which is even crazier.”