Stingers have a plan

Northwoods League team has safety protocols in place when season begins

Willmar Stinger mascot Barry drives back into the dugout in the 2019 season opener against the Mankato MoonDogs on May 29, 2019 at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar. File photo

WILLMAR — Last Thursday, the Northwoods League indefinitely postponed the start of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If and when the league is up and running, the Willmar Stingers have a plan in place to provide a safe environment for fans and employees.

Debuting first on WCCO-TV on Sunday and uploaded to YouTube the next day, the Stingers released a three-minute video detailing the safety protocols that would be put in place at Bill Taunton Stadium this summer.

Stingers co-owner Ryan Voz says the idea of creating a video came from local State Representative Dave Baker.


“We discussed with him the things we could do to increase the chances of us having an opportunity to play Northwoods League baseball,” Voz said. “He had recommended that we do a video.

“He thought it was the right format in terms of showing the safety at the ballpark and that we are taking it seriously.”

While Minnesotans await the latest directive sent down from Gov. Tim Walz regarding stay-at-home orders, the organization will be in concert with state restrictions.

In the first portion of the video, Voz says the organization is willing to limit the amount of fans entering the stadium and would consider keeping the stands filled to 25 percent capacity.

Additionally, protocols were laid out with an emphasis on social distancing. Markers were placed along the grandstands and in the concessions as fans will be asked to be six feet apart at all times.

Regarding player safety, the organization is in the process of hashing out items such as their athletes traveling to Willmar, seating on the team bus and what things will look like in the dugout.

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The Willmar Stingers check out the action from their dugout during a game against St. Cloud on June 10, 2019 at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar. File photo


Also, all staff will be required to wear masks and the ballpark, from the restrooms, grandstands and concessions, will be thoroughly wiped down and cleaned before every home game.

“We understand that there’s going to be restrictions in place, but we just want to have an opportunity at some point this summer,” Voz said. “Being an outdoor venue and sitting six feet apart, along with all the other safety measures, we feel we have the perfect environment to be able to try and expand back to normalcy. If people are able to go to grocery stores and they are able to go to shopping malls or movie theaters, we sure hope that people are able to enjoy a summer night here in Willmar.”

In the second part of the video, Voz and other employees demonstrated the social distancing procedures of walking into the ballpark, entering the gift shop and how food will be handled at the concession stand.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the video has 667 views and 12 likes on YouTube as well as 47 likes on the team’s Facebook page.

“What I like about the video is that it’s a visual,” Voz said. “The video has been very popular because of the ability for people to see themselves at the ballpark. We’ve had a lot of success with it; we’ve had a lot of great comments.”

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