Baseball, softball and sports fans around Nebraska had good news come their way with Gov. Pete Ricketts’ announcement of guidelines for youth baseball and softball to get underway starting in June. Following the announcement, baseball and softball teams around Norfolk have come up with tentative schedules for the summer.
The Norfolk Senior and Junior Legion baseball teams, Norfolk Steel baseball, Golden Girls fast-pitch softball and Kelly's fast-pitch softball plan to start practices Monday, June 1, with games slated to start Thursday, June 18.
"The safety of our players, coaches and families is our top priority as we intend to play baseball this summer," said Jerrett Mills, Norfolk Junior Legion coach and Steel Baseball president. "With the guidelines laid out by the governor, the Steel Baseball Organization will follow all necessary protocols in order to maintain a safe environment for everyone involved."
The biggest issues for the baseball and softball teams will be following guidelines, coming up with schedules and figuring out all of the logistics for a season to work.
Gov. Ricketts came out with a list of guidelines baseball and softball teams have to follow for fans, players and coaches to have a safe and healthy season.
"We are committed to being safe and following the guidelines," said Jamie Wichman, president of the Golden Girls softball program. "It's a whole new world. We have to adjust and go along as best we can."
While the American Legion baseball program had already canceled the 2020 season, the Norfolk Senior and Junior Legion baseball teams are in the works of rearranging their schedules and making adjustments along with the other teams in the state that plan to have a season.
"I firmly believe we are still a go; we are still figuring out logistics and travel right now," Mills said.
All nine of the teams in the Norfolk Steel Baseball organization also plan to have a season with an adjusted schedule.
For Norfolk softball, the Golden Girls and Kelly's plan to play in June as they plan to follow of the restrictions.
"We will be following all of the guidelines, which will be a learning curve," said Jamie Adkins, coach of the Golden Girls Softball 18-and-under team.
By now, baseball and softball would have already had almost two months of games under their belts, so by pushing back the season, they will potentially be finishing up their seasons in July or August.
"Everybody moved all of their tournaments into July and normally we are done by July unless we go to nationals," Adkins said. "It's going to be in a way tighter, crazy schedule this year."
The Norfolk Golden Girls will field nine teams while Kelly's will have six.
"It is probably known that everyone has concerns with it being such a unique situation that we are in, but all the girls, coaches and parents are very excited to get started with play," said Tina Kassmeier, treasurer of Kelly's Fastpitch Softball.
Despite the lifting of restrictions on playing baseball in June, decisions are still being made whether seasons will start. This past week, the Norfolk Recreational Baseball board decided to cancel the entire 2020 season.
"It is with a very heavy heart that we have no choice but to cancel the 2020 Norfolk Recreational Baseball season and turn our sights to 2021," the Norfolk Recreational Board stated in a letter. "Thank you so much for your patience and understanding. Most of the board members also have children that participate in this program, and we are as devastated as we are sure all of you are. If there were any way to safely provide a season, we would do it in a heartbeat.
“We are with you all as we mourn the loss of the season. We take some solace in the knowledge we are doing the best we can to protect our children. We hope you and your family have a great summer and stay healthy."
This summer will be important for the future of sports in Nebraska.
"The future of all sports are pretty much dependent on how baseball and softball goes this summer," Wichman said. "How we respond during the guidelines will help the state make the decision for fall sports."
Fans, players and coaches will need to follow the guidelines that are set in place, and if that happens, there should be a good chance of sports and possibly even school in the fall, Mills said.
"The biggest thing right now is how this is going to play into the fall. We're going to see how this plays out because the biggest issue is the need to have school. We want to have school in session in the fall," he said. "This is setting a precedent, on how we need to have these kids healthy, so we are going to set the parameters as they are and everybody better follow them."