GARNAVILLO — It looked like high school baseball. It felt like a high school baseball game.
And, for the first time in three months, it was a high school sporting event.
There wasn’t any popcorn popping, no burgers sizzling on the grill. The bleachers had been hauled away.
But for the 100 or so people sitting around the Clayton Ridge baseball field Monday afternoon, it was breath of fresh — and somewhat breezy — air.
“For these small-town communities, this stuff is important,” said Kevin Mommer, whose son, Mark, is a sophomore on the Eagles’ 17-player varsity roster.
On a beautiful day in beautiful northeast Iowa, this field on Centre Street — next to the elementary school and across from a cemetery — came alive.
It may not have looked exactly the same as years past, but during these strange times and continuing coronavirus concerns, this felt normal. Well, as normal as things are these days.
There was no admission — only donations — and the concession stand was closed. Signs hung on the brick building that houses concessions and on the dugouts telling spectators to “cheer loud” and “keep your distance.”
But there also was a two-man radio team from nearby KADR broadcasting the contest between Clayton Ridge and North Fayette Valley. The fans were scattered around the area in lawn chairs and on blankets, families sitting together and many sitting far apart.
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These two counties are among the lowest in reported coronavirus cases in the state. Clayton County was at 35 Tuesday morning, neighboring Fayette County at 28.
There were no outward signs of fear among the spectators, no masks. But this was an outdoor activity on a breezy day.
“Be smart ... make good decisions,” Clayton Ridge activities director Ty Troutman said, his message to players and fans. “We trust you.”
He was thrilled to be back working, back outside doing what he loves to do after playing “Mr. Mom” to his six-month old child the past three months.
“It’s a great feeling,” said the 26-year-old Troutman, a former Beckman prep whose father, Todd, is AD and a well-known coach at the Dyersville school. “There were some big doubts” about having a season.
“I feel good for the kids. This is better than nothing.”
Mommer, a state trooper who lives in Guttenberg, agreed. He pulled a camera with a big lens out of a bag to capture the first taste of 2020 baseball.
“It’s a great relief,” he said. “It’s nice seeing everybody out.”
There seemed to be no problems during North Fayette Valley’s sweep of the hosts. Players slid into home plate, celebrated with fake first bumps and seemed to be aware of the rules issued by the Iowa High School Athletic Association. At one point in the first game, the Clayton Ridge coaches had to remind a player warming up not to touch a foul ball that landed behind home plate.
“I know our coaches have been doing a great job,” Troutman said.
Mommer said, at first, he wasn’t sure there would be a season.
“I had hopes,” he said.
Being outside, soaking in the sun and taking pictures was a good day.
“You’ve just got to be smart,” Mommer said.
That’s a good message at the season marches on, hopefully without any issues.