It’s understandable that North Dakotans want to play baseball and softball this summer. For many, it’s the centerpiece of summer activities.
There’s a rich history of playing ball in the state and Bismarck. The great Satchel Paige starred in Bismarck in the 1930s.
So there had to be a lot of happy people when it was announced Monday that men and women would play slowpitch softball this summer. The men will start play on May 29 and the women on June 1. There will be 124 men’s teams with each team carrying 13 to 15 players.
It also was announced Monday that Senior Babe Ruth Baseball would replace the canceled Legion baseball season this summer.
Monday’s softball and baseball news was followed by disappointment Tuesday with the announcement that the 45th Sam McQuade Sr. Charity Softball tournament scheduled for June 26-28 has been canceled.
The large crowds the tournament attracts posed health and safety concerns because of the pandemic. Some teams and umpires from other states didn’t want to travel during the pandemic.
Tournament organizers hope to find ways this summer to raise some of the money that goes each year to local charities. It’s not just the chance to compete and have fun that’s lost, but the revenue that comes into the community and goes to charities.
Still, it was a wise decision by the McQuade board to cancel the tournament. There are still too many unknowns surrounding the coronavirus.
Softball and baseball organizers said the focus this summer will be on the health and safety of players with new rules in place to protect them. That’s good, but the Tribune editorial board expects that during the excitement of the games, enforcing social distancing will be difficult.
Umpires will have more to do than calling balls and strikes if they have to maintain proper distance between players. It will be a challenge, but players want a chance to enjoy their sport. That’s fine, but they will no doubt need reminders at times to heed the new rules for slowpitch softball.
The new rules are:
1) Bench players will stand outside the dugouts.
2) Coin flips will be eliminated.
3) There will be no postgame handshakes.
4) A ball/strike mat will be used, allowing the umpires to stand off to the side to prevent tight contact between batter, catcher and umpire. If the pitch hits the mat, it will be a strike.
Call it pandemic softball.
Fans also will have to use social distancing in the stands.
The pandemic has forced changes in society, and for some it’s been difficult. We have to modify how we live, but we don’t have to quit living. Major league sports will return, but the stadiums will be empty. We will be able to enjoy our favorite teams, just not at the ballpark.
Until we learn more about COVID-19 and a vaccine is developed, we need to be smart about our daily lives. We all need to be smart players this summer.
Softball and baseball reflect the compromises necessary. The McQuade tournament draws big crowds, but the other summer games don’t. It’s easier to be safe at those games.
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