CORONAVIRUS

It's 'PLAY BALL' for Iowa high school summer sports

Gov. Reynolds, IHSAA, IGHSAU give green light to baseball, softball

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds updates the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference at the State Em
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds updates the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center, Monday, May 18, 2020, in Johnston, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

It’s on. Play ball.

Wednesday morning, Gov. Kim Reynolds gave the green light for high school summer sports in Iowa.

Within hours, the state’s governing bodies for interscholastic athletics proceeded. As a result, high school baseball and softball are all systems go.

According to the Iowa Department of Education, team-organized practices for baseball and softball may begin June 1 “unless circumstances dictate a change in date.” Games may begin June 15.

In both cases, a long list of mitigation efforts are required — in the words of the Department of Education — “to help ensure player, coach, and spectator safety during games.”

After Reynolds’ announcement, the IGHSAU board of directors and IHSAA board of control met, and both voted to approve resuming the 2020 summer seasons under Department of Education guidelines.

The guidelines laid out by the Department of Education and the Department of Public Health will enable us to safely move forward with a softball season this summer,” IGHSAU executive director Jean Berger said in a statement released jointly by both organizations. “We are grateful for their leadership and support.

“We know the games will have different circumstances and that we will all have to work together to keep everyone safe, but we are confident that we are up to this challenge.”

IHSAA executive director Tom Keating said, “We trust that our administrators, coaches, umpires and fans will responsibly follow the guidelines in place to keep themselves and each other safe. This is terrific news and is a step toward getting our student-athletes reconnected to the activities that mean so much to them.”

Fans will be permitted at games.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Wednesday’s news means that Iowa interscholastic sports will be active for the first time since the end of the boys’ state basketball tournament in mid-March.

“This is probably the best day I’ve had in a couple of weeks,” Iowa City High softball coach Jeff Koenig said. “I’m very, very excited.”

Added Mount Vernon softball coach Robin Brand: “I’m an eternal optimist. I was 85-percent sure all along that we were going to have a season. I tried to be very hopeful, but I knew I had to stay guarded and grounded.

“I think it will be great for kids, and for the rest of us, to get back to our new normal.”

Linn-Mar baseball coach Kyle Rodenkirk said the resumption of high school sports “give us a chance to get back to some normalcy and for a sense of community. It is a big deal for the community to come out to a game.

“It’s definitely going to be different. There are going to be a lot more policies in place. It’s going to take some getting used to for the kids and coaches.”

The entire high school spring season — track and field, soccer, golf and tennis — was wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State track and field would have been this weekend.

The original first practice dates were May 4 for softball and May 18 for baseball.

Iowa is the only state in the nation that contests high school baseball and softball in the summer.

Coach-athlete contact for all in-person, out-of-season sports is suspended until July 1.

Last week, Benton Community softball coach Eric Stenberg — also an emergency-room doctor — sent a proposal to the IGHSAU and IHSAA, spelling out how a summer season could work.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“I think, with appropriate precautions, and with the assumption that the governor opens things up, that softball and baseball can be done in a safe manner,” he said in a Gazette story Monday. “It’s something we can pull off.”

Both organizations plan to conduct their state tournaments at their regular venues — softball at Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge (July 20-24), baseball at Principal Park in Des Moines (July 24-Aug. 1).

What will the season look like? What will a game look like?

“We don’t know,” City High baseball coach Brian Mitchell said. “I’m hopeful we can keep the integrity of the game intact as much as possible and understand there are things that are going to be done.”

Mitchell understands some may not be comfortable with playing.

“Each family has to make decisions they are comfortable with,” he said. “If a family doesn’t feel comfortable for any number of reasons I totally understand and respect that.”

According to Cedar Rapids Kennedy athletics director Aaron Stecker, a modified Mississippi Valley Conference regular-season schedule has been developed, with each division playing a 14-game round-robin schedule.

— The Gazette’s K.J. Pilcher contributed to this report

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.