New Ulm is definitely in as host of the state amateur baseball tournament, which was uncertain until Saturday.
A team, the Waterville Indians, have had two players test positively for COVID-19. The team is now under a two-week quarantine.
All games are now OK to count as league games.
And, a current professional has been approved to play town ball this summer with the minor-league season canceled.
Those were some of the highlights of the Minnesota Baseball Association’s board meeting Saturday.
“We’re guardedly optimistic that New Ulm’s going to be an incredible experience,” said Bird Island’s Mike Nagel, who is secretary/treasurer of the MBA’s seven-member state board.
New Ulm and Springfield are set to be the co-hosts of the 97th annual state tournament. New Ulm, which has two ballparks expected to host games, was reluctant to host until Saturday because of liability concerns. That changed when an aide to Gov. Tim Walz gave the MBA the OK to go forward with games following MBA-approved guidelines and restrictions involving social distancing and getting forms signed by fans indicating they have no symptoms.
“New Ulm came in very, very concerned about their community and the potential for financial shortfalls,” said Nagel, noting that New Ulm has spent $2.5 million in park improvements in anticipation of having the state tournament. Springfield has spent $650,000.
Nagel said there was a discussion about high-risk fans being in a separate section from the rest of the population and having a family-only section. There may be food restrictions as well.
After much discussion, New Ulm and Springfield agreed to host with the MBA’s support.
Waterville played the Jordan Brewers on Friday (June 19), with Jordan winning 4-2. The next day, the team learned two of its players tested positive for COVID-19.
Watertville is now in the midst of a 14-day self-quarantine. Jordan is under a five-day quarantine. If no other players test positive or show symptoms, both will be allowed to resume play, Nagel said.
“We have on our website (www.mnbaseball.org) what happens if you test positive,” Nagel said. “Any teams that do (have players) test positive, can’t play and aren’t coming back until all guidelines are met.”
Nagel said the board also has received complaints from fans that not all social-distancing guidelines set up by the board are being met. The board will suspend games for any team not meeting those guidelines.
With the state government’s approval, all teams can now count their games in their league as long as each has approval from the municipality in which it plays its games, whether it’s a city council or town board or private baseball association, Nagel said.
To ease eligibility restrictions, players who were on last year’s roster will not have to meet the state guideline of appearing in four league games. They will be eligible automatically with no games. Only new players must meet the four-game requirement.
Most importantly to Nagel, teams no longer need state-board approval to open up.
“That’s been my full-time job lately, going through all these emails and texts,” Nagel said.
And, Brody Rodning now will be able to play amateur baseball despite being under contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. Rodning will play for amateur baseball’s Gaylord Islanders after receiving board approval.
Rodning, a 24-year-old right-hander and former Minnesota State-Mankato star, pitched for the Midwest League’s Lansing Lugnuts last season. Because minor-league baseball has canceled the 2020 season, the Blue Jays have given Rodning permission to play for Gaylord.
Nagel said he believes it is the first time this has happened in MBA history.
“We see it as similar to college players playing in the summer wood-bat leagues (like the Northwoods League),” Nagel said.
State tournament sites
Here’s a list of recent and future state amateur baseball tournament sites:
2017 — Green Isle, Hamburg, Norwood
2018 — New Prague, Shakopee, Jordan
2019 — Maple Lake, Delano, Dassel
2020 — New Ulm, Springfield
2021 — Chaska, Waconia, Hamburg
2022 — Faribault, Dundas, Miesville