Change of plans: No baseball after all

Moscow mayor Bill Lambert throws the first pitch of the Cal Ripken Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament on July 18, 2018, at the Moscow School District Community Playfields. The Moscow Baseball Association has canceled American Legion and youth baseball for this season.

Less than a week after saying “play ball,” the Moscow Baseball Association canceled its American Legion and youth baseball seasons.

The MBA planned to play Legion, Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth baseball with delayed starts this summer, but at a meeting late Monday, the organization decided instead to ax its seasons.

One contributing factor was a decision during the weekend by the national American Legion organization to end play under its umbrella, MBA president Dennis Wilson said.

“Going into the meeting, honestly, I think the majority was that we were going to continue to play, but after discussing the American Legion canceling at their national level and our liability issues that we would take on, it just got too heavy and started leaning toward the other way,” Wilson said. “And it just didn’t stop from there.”

Wilson said most Legion teams in Idaho had decided to cancel their seasons, and Kuna, Moscow and Lewis-Clark were still undecided at the time of their decision.

The Lewiston Tribune tried to reach out to Charles “Abe” Abrhamson, the Idaho director of baseball, as well as Lewis-Clark American Legion Board president Patti Meshinshek, but neither could be reached for comment.

The overall cancellation now has added to a growing list of events that have been either put on hold or outright canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Regionally, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association canceled its entire high school spring sports season April 6. On April 7, the national American Legion organization canceled its regional and World Series events. Two days later, the American Legion in Washington decided to not conduct its summer season. The Idaho High School Activities Association followed April 17 with the cancellation of all spring sports.

The original plan was to come up with protocols to safely play baseball as Idaho begins to reopen this month from the stay-at-home orders issued by Gov. Brad Little because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Idaho could move to Phase 2 — which would allow gatherings of as many as 10 people and the reopening would allow gyms, hair salons and restaurant dining rooms — as soon as Saturday.

Wilson said some teams could choose to play an independent season outside of the MBA. Coaches and players of the senior Legion Blue Devils team and at the Cal Ripken level (ages 8-12) in particular have shown interest, he said.

“There’s a few coaches out there that want to play that are going to see if their kids are interested in playing an independent travel-ball team,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of up to them.”

Wilson said the Blue Devils would be allowed to wear their Legion uniforms with the Legion patch covered up. And the team wouldn’t be permitted to use the team bus for travel.

“I’m sure if they can get games together with other teams around northern Idaho, western Montana, I think they’ll try to get some games in,” Wilson said. “If the curve keeps going down like it is and there’s no big outbursts of (COVID-19), I think (they’ll) be fine. Time will tell.”

Wilson said the MBA has three options in its refund policy for parents who have already paid dues for Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth baseball. Legion members had not yet paid.

“For Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth, they can donate their fees back to the MBA, they can use it as a credit for next season or they can get a full refund,” Wilson said.

Wilson said youth baseball originally planned to have a season as well, following the Legion protocol. But that all changed with the cancellation at the national level and subsequent decision by the MBA to also cancel.

There still could be some baseball in Idaho, it just won’t be under the MBA.

“I think they’re up for it, I think they’re going to try their best to get together,” Wilson said, “we just can’t support it.”

In Idaho, there are 2,293 reported cases of the coronavirus, with 69 confirmed deaths, according to state’s website at 4 p.m. PST Tuesday. In Nez Perce County, there have been 69 confirmed positive tests of COVID-19, with 19 deaths. In Latah County, there have been just five confirmed positive tests.

In the United States, the Center for Disease Control’s website has reported 1,342,594 confirmed cases, with a total of 80,820 deaths (these numbers typically lag a day behind). According to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine website, the number of cases in the U.S. climbed to 1,369,386, with a total of 82,339 deaths, as of 7:30 p.m. PST Tuesday.

Donn Walden contributed to this report.

Stephan Wiebe can be reached at swiebe@dnews.com, by phone at (208) 883-4624 and on Twitter at @StephanSports.

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