In spite of the high school baseball season being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, a group of Williston area student-athletes have decided to take the ball field anyway.
A group of 10 local baseball players; Jaxon Meyer, Garret Hill, Camdin Miller, Dale Kjorstad, Charlie Whitlock, Denver Sheets, Rowdy Zealley, Kyle Mischke, Sam Whitlock and Ashton Collings, will be in Bismarck on Friday, May 15 to compete in a two-day, round-robin sandlot tournament which will feature other teams within the state of North Dakota.
Taking place at both Haaland Field and Tatley-Eagles Park, the Williston contingent has scheduled a doubleheader on the first day of the tournament, taking on Bismarck Gold at 4 p.m., and then playing Mandan at 6. Skyler Strand, a Bismarck High senior baseball player who also serves as a summer youth baseball coach, helped to spearhead the efforts to create the tournament.
Despite North Dakota Smart Restart guidelines which states to discontinue group sports where more than 10 participants are playing at the same time, including participants on the bench or on shifts, until such time social distancing recommendations are suspended, Strand indicates he had the full support of the parks and recreation department for which he works.
“Right now, the general rule of thumb will be to come for your team’s games only. We still want to follow the guidelines, and we want to stress that we are following them,” Strand says. “There will have plenty of hand sanitizer and wipes available. We want to be smart and we want to have fun at the same time.”
According to Jaxon Meyer, who will be participating in the event, he says he found out about the baseball tournament from a public Facebook post, and then reached out to his former high school teammates via group chat to see if they would be interested in playing.
Facing a May 6 deadline to enter the tournament, a 10-man roster was quickly formed, and the Williston area players entered into the tournament. While organizing the roster, Meyer says there were no objections from any of the players he asked in participating at the Bismarck baseball tournament.
“Everybody was just excited to play again; none of the players refused to go,” Meyer says. “There wasn’t really any concerns coming from the players.”
The games will be seven-innings long, or reach a maximum time limit of one hour and 45 minutes. A 10-run mercy rule after four innings will also be enforced, and games will be played with umpires. There will be no concessions or bathroom access, and players will only be permitted on the field 15 minutes before their game begins.
For the fans in attendance, they must remain at least six feet away from one another. Additionally, all the Williston area players will be traveling separately to and from the games. Not sanctioned by the North Dakota High School Activities Association, the baseball tournament will not have any coaches present. Williston High head baseball coach Aaron Finders declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Meyer states that parents and family members of the players involved expressed support for the idea of getting back out on the field. The graduating senior believes getting involved in live game action now will be good preparation in the event that regular baseball activities resume in the summer. As far as expectations are concerned, Meyer says the main objective for the Williston club is simply to go out and have some fun.
“We were obviously disappointed with how things went and our season being cancelled, so we are all just excited to play baseball again,” Meyer tells the Williston Herald. “Given the nature of how baseball is played in a spread out area for the most part, we can practice social distancing during the actual games, so there wasn’t a whole lot of concern about the virus. None of us have faced live pitching in about six months, so it’s going to be nice to get things back to normal a little bit, and hopefully we can win some games along the way.”