Legion baseball season cancelled

Published 1:15 pm Monday, May 11, 2020

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The spring and summer of 2019 saw baseball in Austin rise to new heights, but 2020 has now brought all of that momentum to a screeching halt.

The American Legion baseball season was called off across the country over the weekend, leaving amateur baseball as the last possible outlet for any seniors who play baseball in Austin. The amateur season hasn’t been called off yet as a decision has yet to be made.

Losing the Legion season is another blow for Austin, which sent the high school team, Legion team and VFW team to state tournament play last year. Joe Ciola, who had coached with the Austin Greyhounds, the VFW and Legion in the past year, was set to coach the Packer varsity team this year, but instead he’s left wondering what is next.

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“We’re all disappointed. We’ve had some great experiences with this group and it was going to be a lot of fun if we played this year,” Ciola said. “The ball players bring the community together. This is such a tough situation because they’re not given the opportunity to create memories.”

State officials pointed to statewide limitations on crowds and gatherings due to the COVID-19 outbreak, as a couple of the reasons the Legion season was called off.

“Safety has always been important in American Legion Baseball,” Director of Minnesota American Legion Baseball Randy Schaub of Danube said in a press release. “As much as we wanted to play this year, we cannot take chances with the players, coaches and fans we oversee.”

American Legion Baseball programs across the country have shut down, resulting in team insurance being unavailable through the national Legion Baseball program. The national level last month cancelled the American Legion World Series planned for August, and the national program announced Friday, May 8, it wouldn’t provide any national-level support.

Minnesota Baseball Committee member Jim Peck has been involved in Legion Baseball for 57 years. 

“This is one of the worst days in all of my time in baseball,” he said.

With 366 teams fielded in 2019 and 357 teams signed up for 2020 , Minnesota American Legion Baseball is the largest among the 50 states.

Participation in Minnesota American Legion Baseball dates back to 1923, and the first state tournament was held in Mankato 1926. It has been held every year since then, and Minnesota was among only three states with that continuous string of tournaments. 2020 has broken that run.

As for the VFW baseball season, a decision has yet to be made on this summer.