The fields at Hidden Valley Park, Independence Athletic Complex and Crysler Stadium will be silent this summer.
At least for American Legion baseball.
Gary Stone, the chairman of the American Legion Missouri Baseball Committee who lives in Independence, said the eight-person panel recommended to the Department of Missouri Executive Committee that the 2020 American Legion season in the state be canceled.
The Executive Committee concurred and has voted to cancel the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Legion season typically lasts from Memorial Day weekend through the end of July, with some postseason games ending in early to mid-August. Though the start was scheduled for after the lifting of the stay-at-home orders in the state and the county, Stone said there were still risks.
“The first and foremost reason for our recommendation was the safety and health of our players, coaches and fans,” Stone said. “There are simply too many unknowns to take the risk. Secondly, if we were to sanction play and someone got ill with the virus while at one of our events, that would leave Missouri American Legion in a precarious legal liability situation.”
Stone said the decision to cancel – especially after the entire high school season was wiped out by the pandemic – was not easy.
“While some parts are showing signs of recovery, there are still some hot spots around the state,” Stone said. “We certainly did not take this action lightly. Very difficult decision, and I am sure it will be cussed, discussed, and second guessed to infinity and beyond, but it is the right thing to do.
“From a personal standpoint, this will be the first time in 48 years I will have no summertime baseball responsibilities,” added Stone, also a former manager of the Hi-Boy Post 340 team from Independence.
Jim Moran, a former manager who now oversees the Blue Springs Post 499 Fike program, said that also means what would have been the annual American Legion Wood Bat Invitational has also been canceled.
“This would have been our 32nd year for the Wood Bat, but I guess (No.) 32 will have to be next year now,” Moran said. “We had some great new teams coming in. The schedule was done a month ago and we had already incurred some expenses, but we will have to save all of that for next year.”
Moran was expecting that the regular season would be canceled.
“It’s not surprising at all and it was the right thing to do,” he said. “We have to make sure we ensure the safety of the players and fans. And if we don’t, we’re opening ourselves up for a lawsuit. It’s disappointing, but it’s the right call.”
Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s manager Tom Bush agreed that it was the correct decision.
“I think it’s the thing to do,” Bush said. “It’s just disappointing for the kids. If they had taken away my senior year of baseball and then my Legion season, I know how I would have felt, but it’s really the right thing to do.”
Bush was concerned that older coaches, fans and umpires – especially ones who have underlying conditions – would be at an unnecessary risk.
“I couldn’t live with myself if some kid or umpire had the virus and took it home to their mom and dad, or grandpa and grandma, and they got sick or worse, someone lost their life,” Bush said. “This is the safe thing to do.
“But my heart really goes out to the kids who are going to lose another season of baseball. But this is not the time to play baseball because of the safety factor.”