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Phase I includes allowing American Legion practices

Northstars, all legion teams must get clearance from local health boards before returning to the field: Games not allowed until Phase II


Last updated 4/27/2020 at 12:18pm

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

So far this spring, Legion Field in Havre has been empty, both the diamond and the stands, and even if there is an American Legion season, which is yet to be determined, the stands will likely be empty for the summer due to continued concerns over COVID-19. Still, over the weekend, American Legion baseball in Montana did receive a spot of good news because the state gave legion programs the green light to begin practices, starting today. Teams, like the Havre Northstars, must first have a plan approved by the local city-county health board, and strict protocols will be in place once teams and players do take to the field for practice. Meanwhile, games will not be allowed to be played until Montana reaches Phase II of Gov. Steve Bullock's plan to re-open the state.

The boys of summer are at least going to get some practices in.

After Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced that Montana would start the first phase of a re-opening, approximately 65 coaches and team administrators for Montana-Alberta American Legion Baseball met in a Zoom meeting Saturday to discuss the season going forward.

In the meeting, general chairman Ron Edwards of Bozeman announced that the American Legion Baseball Association in Montana has been given clearance to begin practices for the baseball season under specific circumstances, starting today.

Edwards gave this statement to 406 Sports.

"With the governor's re-opening the state to Phase I, we are going to start allowing teams to practice once they have permission from their local jurisdictions," Edwards said.

With that, teams like the Havre Northstars can begin practice once the local health boards and officials allow the teams to move forward. The announcement is good news for the Northstars if everything goes as planned, because Havre was set to host the American Legion State Tournament this year.

As the permission was given, Havre head coach Patch Wirtzberger has been working to bring forth a plan to the local health board regarding the team's procedures moving forward.

"They're giving the American Legion the green light to practice," Wirtzberger said, "but we also have to get permission from our city, county health board to do that. We're currently putting together a practice plan with clean procedures and how our equipment will be used, stuff like that that we can present to the county so hopefully they'll give us the green light. That's kind of the avenues that we're going through right now."

But for the games to be played, Bullock must give the all-clear for Phase II of the reopening, with that time table yet to be determined. Wirtzberger gave more details he was told through the meeting Saturday.

"They said in the meeting yesterday that if we hit Phase II, we'll be able to hold games," Wirtzberger said. "Phase II means gatherings of 50 or less, so with two teams, coaches and essential personnel there, that gets us near 40, so we would probably be hosting without fans at that point. That's kind of what we're gearing towards. They didn't set a date to where they think that might meet. That's all up to Gov. Bullock and the city-county health board."

For now, the plan is to get to Phase II, but there will still be some limitations. It's already been determined that, if there is a regular season, Montana teams will not play their Canadian rivals across the border due to nonessential travel restrictions and fans will not be in attendance in Phase II. But Edwards mentioned that online broadcasts of the games may happen for fans to follow.

Either way, practices starting provides some hope for the American Legion and the Northstars, who are aiming to get the OK from the local health board to practice, with the end goal of being able to move forward with the season and hopefully, a state tournament at Legion Field.


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