Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday that summer athletic seasons may be conducted for high school baseball and softball following a two-month activities suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement approved the reopening of school facilities and the start of practices for Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and Iowa High School Athletic Association sanctioned summer sports starting on June 1.
Per the Iowa Department of Education, first contests may occur as early as June 15 and fans will be permitted at games.
Newton Senior High School, PCM High School, Colfax-Mingo High School and Lynnville-Sully High School all confirmed to the Newton News on Wednesday that they expect to compete in baseball and softball this summer but a lot has to still be figured out.
“We are planning on playing,” Newton Activities Director Ryan Rump said. “The Little Hawkeye Conference is still working out logistics and a modified schedule.”
Athletic directors inside the South Iowa Cedar League are meeting tomorrow to finalize everything, according to Colfax-Mingo AD Erin Hume.
Both Hume and Lynnville-Sully AD Mike Parkinson said their respective schools expect to play this summer though.
PCM AD Greg Bonnett said the Mustangs are planning on playing this summer, but a lot still has to be worked out within the Heart of Iowa Conference.
Baxter AD Lori Fricke did not confirm the Bolts’ plan to play but said the Iowa Star Conference was meeting Thursday and the school administrators within the league are meeting Friday to make the final decisions.
Member schools are to follow reopening guidance entitled “Summer Sports” and “Use of School Facilities” as supplied by the Iowa Department of Education, with recommendations based on conversations with the IGHSAU, IHSAA, Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the governor’s office.
“The IHSAA thanks Dr. Ann Lebo, Governor Reynolds, Dr. Pedati, the IDPH and all who have worked diligently to develop these guidelines to help us conduct a baseball season for the young people in Iowa,” IHSAA executive director Tom Keating said.
“We trust that our administrators, coaches, umpires and fans will responsibly follow the guidelines in place to keep themselves and each other safe. This is terrific news and is a step toward getting our student-athletes reconnected to the activities that mean so much to them.”
Spring sports seasons outside of some indoor track meets never began and ultimately were canceled on April 17 following the cancellation of in-person K-12 schooling for Iowa’s 2019-20 academic year.
The original first practice date for baseball and softball was May 4.
“The guidelines laid out by the Department of Education and the (IDPH) will enable us to safely move forward with a softball season this summer,” IGHSAU executive director Jean Berger said. “We are grateful for their leadership and support.
“We know the games will have different circumstances and that we will all have to work together to keep everyone safe, but we are confident that we are up to this challenge.”
The IGHSAU and IHSAA plan to issue further sport-specific guidance and FAQ lists early next week.
Both organizations currently plan to conduct their state tournaments at their regular venues with IGHSAU softball at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge and IHSAA baseball at Principal Park in Des Moines.
Guidelines laid out by the IDPH included for practices starting June 1 and games starting on June 15 include: Dugouts must only be used during games, players should use own gloves, helmets and bats as much as possible, parents must remain in their cars for drop off and pick up after practice, coaches are responsible for social distancing rules, players must bring their own water/beverage to consume during practices, coaches must sanitize shared equipment before and after each practice and games, players and coaches should check their temperatures before and after practices and games, anyone with symptoms of illness is not allowed to practice or play in games, no spitting of sunflower seed shells and players are encouraged to provide their own hand sanitizer.
Also, no one should attend or participate in practice if they currently have symptoms or have been in contact with anyone confirmed with a COVID-19 diagnosis in the last 14 days.
Coaches are responsible for tracking absences for the purpose of noting potential COVID-19 cases and are to contact public health if a positive case is reported.
Also on game days, anyone with symptoms is not allowed to participate. Schools must limit the use of bleachers for fans, who are encouraged to bring their own chairs or stand. Also, fans must not attend if they have symptoms of illness, concessions are not allowed to be open and schools must implement any other reasonable measures under the circumstances of each school to ensure social distancing of staff, students and community members, increased hygiene practices and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 consistent with the guidance issued by the IDPH.
Per guidance from the Iowa Department of Education, coach-athlete contact for all in-person, out-of-season sports is suspended until July 1.