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Dairyland League not ready to make a call on its 2020 season

The Dairyland League hasn’t yet ruled out playing some baseball this summer, but it was determined a wait-and-see approach is still needed before any plans can be made during a May 13 video conference among team managers.

The 14-team amateur league that includes six teams from Taylor County as well as squads from Abbotsford, Marshfi eld, Merrill, Wausau, Everest, Tomahawk, Minocqua and Pittsville had already canceled all its of games in May in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the Safer at Home Order that was in place until it was struck down by the state Supreme Court about two hours before last week’s meeting.

During the 35-minute session, the managers voted unanimously to meet again on Monday, June 1, one day after the next Wisconsin Baseball Association (WBA) directors video conference, set for 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 31.

The WBA is expected to decide then if it will proceed with plans to hold its annual post-season tournament in August. Having that information would help the Dairyland League plan its next steps if the possibility to have a shortened season still exists, pending whatever public health and safety guidelines remain.

League secretary Justin Hraby said he could quickly put a revised schedule together, whether play starts in mid-June, the first week of July or whenever. If there is no WBA tournament, the option would be there to extend a season well into August. He is asking for input from the teams as to how to structure that schedule because there is no chance of getting a full 13 games in for each team.

“I think we’d be kind of putting the cart before the horse if we try to do anything prior to that May 31 meeting,” Dairyland League president and Whittlesey manager Dan Kraschnewski suggested. “Once we get direction out of that meeting, or hopefully we will get some direction out of that meeting, at least then we’ll know if there’s going to be semifinals and finals. If there’s not going to be any state tournament, then like (Hraby) said, we can schedule as many games whenever the governor says we can start playing.”

Comments made during the meeting indicated every team wants to play, but there is an understanding that obstacles must be overcome. The first of those is field availability. For example, teams that use school district facilities are still banned from getting on to those fields before July 1. Merrill manager Shawn Schultz said his team is at the mercy of the Lincoln County health department as to when it could use Athletic Park in that city.

The confusion left by the Supreme Court decision earlier in the day also made it pointless for the league to make any decisions until more information and guidelines were available.

“I don’t know if that means the Bounce Back plan is still in place or if they take the Bounce Back plan out and start over or what the deal is,” Hraby said.

“We’re putting ourselves in a whole new situation than a business that’s opening up with five people inside and social distancing guidelines in place,” said Doug Etten, representing the Minocqua Wood Ducks. He said Minocqua had canceled its summer youth program earlier in the day. “I think we just need to be careful too because as it was echoed on the WBA meeting (May 3), the last thing you want to hear about is anything happening where somebody was put in harm’s way or contracted the disease because of what we decided to.”

Kraschnewski noted that during the WBA’s May 3 meeting, it was decided that leagues within the association won’t be required to take part in this year’s post-season tournament, if there is one.

“If need be, we’ll start in July if everyone can get on their fields,” Medford Moon Dogs manager Tom Mueller said. “If we could just have something to look forward to it’d be great, even if we play the half the teams or however.”

“If there’s a chance we can play sometime between now and next November, we’ll get on the field and do that,” Schultz said. “That’s our opinion. We get nine guys to show up and they have hats on their heads and gloves on their hands. It doesn’t have to be the World Series. It’s just a matter of getting out there and playing.”

“I think that’s a good point,” Hraby said. “There’s going to be a lot of people itching to play. College kids, high school kids, there’s going to be a lot of available ball players.”