BEMIDJI -- Two blissful words are close to echoing out in Bemidji once more: “Play ball!”
Despite the American Legion baseball season being canceled in May, Bemidji Post 14 players have been ramping up to begin a makeshift season nonetheless.
“With the feedback we got from family and parents, above all, they were very interested,” head coach Nate Blumhagen said. “We want to make sure we support that.”
Bemidji began practicing mid-June and is eying to start the season the week after the Fourth of July holiday. They will field two teams -- an 18U team and a 16U team -- with around 13-14 players on each roster.
For now, the team has been getting in intrasquad scrimmages, Blumhagen said, while he works on finalizing the schedule. Blumhagen said he’s reached out to schools and communities in the area, with an emphasis on staying up north for the most part.
“We’re hoping to play about 20 games each in the month of July,” he said of the two teams. “I found about five, six good opponents. We’re going to go home-and-home with most of them, play doubleheaders and get about four games a week over five weeks and sneak 20 games in.”
Understandably, there will also be a number of changes to everyday life at the ballpark because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve been trying to stay out of the dugout, having hand sanitizer available,” Blumhagen said. “We bought each kid their own helmet so they’re not sharing those things. We’re requiring batting gloves. … It sounds like almost every community is on the same page for it now. We’re trying to work to do the same thing. Games might look a little different. They might be closed to the public, that sort of thing. We might have some dugout restrictions, as well. But we’re just making it work to get them out on the field.”
The teams hope to play home games at the BSU Baseball Field, although discussions with Bemidji State University are still ongoing.
Even though this season will inevitably look different than others, Blumhagen said the opportunity is what matters most.
“We’ve got kids that really want to make a push to play baseball after high school, and to lose an entire year of development is really, really tough on those hopes and dreams,” he said. “And with no place for them to go for some structured activity, it’s tough for kids to stay productive and stay out of trouble, things like that. We want to continue to make sure we have that structure available for them.
“And, at the end of the day, what’s summer without baseball?”