Several American Legion baseball teams from the Capital Region will be playing games this summer in an independent league.
Teams from Amsterdam, Schenectady and Saratoga have joined others from Saugerties and Oneonta for an 18-game season that will be played with safety protocols in place.
“We are doing extra things to make sure the kids are safe,” said Bill Agresta, manager of the Amsterdam Post 701 team.
The Department of New York American Legion Baseball Committee announced the cancellation of the 2020 summer season in early May following a directive from the American Legion National Organization out of concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In April, the Americanism Commission, which oversees the American Legion baseball program, had announced its decision to call off regional tournaments and the American Legion World Series due to the pandemic.
A steady progression of the state’s re-opening phases factored into the decision to put together the 19-under Independent Legion Baseball League.
“For a while there, nobody knew what direction anything was going,” said Saratoga Stampede head coach Dale Long. “Thanks to the hard work of [Schenectady Indians manager] Jim DeMidio, we got this going. We all wanted to get on the field, and we’re thankful for the opportunity.”
“We talked about doing something so the kids could have an opportunity to play,” Agresta said. “They didn’t get to play high school or college ball. Kids who are going into college need to stay in shape.”
Amsterdam will open its season Monday with a game at Collins Park in Scotia against the Schenectady Indians.
“It’s going to be a good time for the kids,” DeMidio said.
The players will supply their own equipment, practice social distance, have the option to wear facial covering and sanitize often.
“My kids have an expression, ‘No spray, no play,'” said DeMidio, who has players from Niskayuna, Scotia-Glenville, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Cobleskill-Richmondville and Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons high schools. “We are following all of the guidelines.”
“Anything we can do to be safe,” Long said.
Players are being asked to take their own temperature prior to a competition or practice. Each player will be allowed two guests for games. Umpires will call balls and strikes from behind the pitcher’s mound.
“We’re trying to abide by the rules provided by the county and recreation department,” said Agresta, whose team, made up of players from Amsterdam, Gloversville, Johnstown and Broadalbin-Perth high schools, will host its games at Shuttleworth Park.
The Independent Legion Baseball League will have most games in the late afternoon or early evening because many players are holding down summer jobs, and every team will play a handful of double-headers.
“There’s a lot of talent out there,” DeMidio said. “Some of these guys are the real deal.”
The Saratoga Stampede has players from Saratoga Springs, Saratoga Central Catholic, Schuylerville, Queensbury and Glens Falls high schools, and will host games at Veteran’s Memorial Field in Geyser Park.
“Any baseball teams that wish to play this season will be participating in a sporting event not sponsored or endorsed by The American Legion’s national organization but a sporting event sponsored by their respective department and post,” a memo from the American Legion National Organization stated. “Those departments that conduct a 2020 baseball season program will need to determine their rules, guidelines, schedules, insurance coverage, etc., for their own programs as The American Legion National Organization will not provide this assistance.”
Long said the Stampede will also compete in the Eastern New York Travel Baseball League.