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Summer baseball could once again be a reality for high school and American Legion teams that had their seasons cancelled because of coronavirus

Play ball!

Well, not quite yet. But coaches were happy to hear Monday that organized youth baseball and softball practices can start June 1 and games may commence June 18.

“That’s awesome news,’’ Elkhorn South baseball coach Brandon Dahl said. “It’s a huge day for baseball in Nebraska.’’

Like many of the Metro Conference coaches, Dahl also guides the school’s American Legion team. Varsity baseball players saw their spring season wiped out after the NSAA canceled all activities in mid-March because of coronavirus concerns.

“We still have a lot of guys who want to play,’’ Dahl said. “I feel especially bad for our seniors so it’s great that now they’ll get a chance to play.’’

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced the new guidelines at his press conference Monday.

“It’s definitely a step forward for us,’’ Omaha Creighton Prep coach Pat Mooney said. “We haven’t heard a lot of good news on the baseball front the past few months.’’

There’s a long list of social distancing restrictions, but Mooney said he is just happy that teams can now move forward.

“We’ve already talked about a lot of things we need to do to be safe,’’ he said. “I think everybody will take care to do the right thing so we can keep playing this summer.’’

The governor’s announcement came a few days after the national Legion office issued a memo that officially suspended the 2020 season, shutting down all sponsorship and involvement. In essence, Legion teams will be participating in a sporting event not endorsed by the Legion.

It was another byproduct of COVID-19, which already had led to the cancellation of the Legion World Series and all regionals. On the state level, the Legion state and district tournaments were cancelled last month.

One key component of the latest national Legion directive involves insurance. Teams traditionally purchase insurance through the Legion, but now that won’t be available.

Mooney said each team could purchase its own insurance, which is something he’s already researched and passed on to other coaches.

Another question is whether teams can wear Legion uniforms. Simply removing the Legion’s official embroidered uniform patch might be an option, though Mooney said some uniforms have a patch that can’t be removed.

“Being able to use our uniforms would save us all a lot of money,’’ Mooney said. “Sponsors pay for that advertising so we’d like to still wear them.’’

Legion baseball hits close to home for Mooney, who began playing in his native Minnesota in 1982. Several of his Prep Legion teams have reached the World Series, and the 2017 squad finished as the national runner-up.

“I’ve been a part of this for a long time,’’ he said. “That’s why we want to do everything we can to try and salvage something this season.’’

Mooney added that he’s been working on the logistics of a possible city championship series. It would begin in mid-July and last for two weeks.

In his 21st season as the Junior Jays’ coach, Mooney said he expects his Legion team to be practicing June 1 – rain or shine.

“Maybe we can have some sort of Midnight Madness that night,’’ he said. “I know our guys are all excited to start playing.’’

Mike covers high school sports, primarily volleyball in the fall, girls basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. He also reports on horse racing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @MPattersonOWH. Phone: 402-444-1350.

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