By STEVE KRAH
Because of concerns with the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, officials have decided to call off 2020 events.
“It’s definite,” says John Hayes, a member of Indiana and national Legion baseball committees. “We’ve canceled the World Series (in Shelby, N.C.) and national regionals. I’ve talked with (state baseball chairman) Owen Wells and we’ve closed up the state of Indiana.
“It’s something we thought long and hard about. It was the right thing to do. This virus thing is not worth taking a chance especially since we don’t know how it’s going to last.”
Hayes says at least five states had shut down Legion baseball for 2020 before the national decision.
An early call was also made since the national organization had already began its fundraising efforts and it purchases plane tickets for regional qualifiers.
While many teams had not yet registered, Hayes estimates there might have been more than 30 senior (19U) teams in Indiana this year with a smaller number of junior (17U) squads.
Some teams had already paid for state tournament and insurance and will now wait for refunds.
Wells, who is based at Rockport Post 254, notes that American Legion Baseball began its national tournament in 1925 and has hosted an event every year since 1927.
Terre Haute Wayne Newton Post 346, which is managed by Tim Hayes (brother of John), was state tournament runner-up in 2017 and won the state title in both 2018 and 2019.
“We hate it for the kids. We hate it for the program,” says John Hayes. “But if this is the worse thing that ever happens to them, they’ll have a good life.”
“I’m disappointed, but I was expecting it,” says Post 6 manager Don Andrews of the cancellation. “It’s the smart thing to do.
“We could still play travel baseball, but we certainly won’t do that if it’s not safe.”
Andrews notes that his players had already completed fundraising.
In case they would get a chance to play, he is advising them to throw the baseball three of more times a week.
“The most important thing is to keep your arm in shape,” says Andrews. “Everything else they can pick up quickly.”
Kevin Zvokel is the manager for the Muncie Post 19 Chiefs.
“I really feel bad for the players who had already lost their high school and college seasons, especially the seniors who missed an opportunity for a final season of baseball with their friends,” says Zvokel. “In the end, the No. 1 concern is safety for our players, coaches and fans.
“Hopefully things clear and we can still get some baseball in this summer.”
Jill Druskis, Director of the Americanism Division of the American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis, says that national capstone American Legion youth programs are National Oratorical Contest, eight Baseball regional tournaments, Baseball World Series, Boys Nation and the shoulder-to-shoulder match of the Junior Shooting 3-Position Air Rifle National Championship.
“And the awarding of one of our national youth program scholarships has been affected this year as well,” says Druskis. “It is through the Boys State and Girls State programs that youth are afforded eligibility to apply for a Samsung American Legion Scholarship.
“Many Boys State and Girl State delegates did not pursue their application for the 2020 Samsung American Legion Scholarship as a result of their respective Boys State and Girls State program being canceled.”
National Commander of The American Legion James William “Bill” Oxford provides daily updates at this link.