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It's a Start

With Monday night's practice, Havre Northstars American Legion baseball became the first local team to return to the field or court since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Montana


Last updated 5/5/2020 at 7:50am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre's Quinn Reno throws a ball during Monday night's American Legion baseball practice at Legion Field. The Northstars held their first practice of the 2020 season Monday night, with safety measures in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Phase I of Gov. Steve Bullock's plan to re-open the state, legion baseball is allowed to practice as long as only 10 people are present at a time, and strict social distancing guidelines are followed.

The high school spring sports season got shut down due to COVID-19, but there was a possibility that the summer sports can still go on. Originally, the American Legion baseball in Montana had its season on hold, but after a decision last week to green-light practices, and with permission from local health boards, hope came back for the teams.

In the case of the Havre Northstars American Legion baseball club, the Hill County Health Board approved the plan that was presented to them, allowing the Northstars to go ahead with practices under social distancing guidelines and cleaning procedures. When everything seemed lost, there is now a chance that baseball can go forward if all goes to plan.

With the approval from the local health board, Havre head coach Patch Wirtzberger outlined the main points of the procedures that took place before, and during practices, which got underway Monday evening.

"The kids have to wash their hands right when they get there," Wirtzberger said. "We're going to have breaks throughout practice to use hand sanitizer and get them all cleaned up. Then after practice is just the cleaning and disinfecting of the gear and of course, we'll be following the social distancing guidelines by keeping them six feet apart. Those are the main points."

Practice is not only the first step down the right path, but it is the most essential step, as well. If a season is on the horizon, practicing carries a lot of impact on how prepared the Northstars will be going forward. With all the safety procedures in place, the practices will be a little different then Havre may be used to but rewarding in the end if a season does come about.

From proper cleanliness for the players, and equipment, there will be plenty of strict monitoring regarding the possible risks that can come about from the practices, but with what Wirtzberger and his team are putting in place for them, the risk will be quite low. The seriousness of the procedures is already enforced and carries a lot of responsibility for each player and coach at the practices, which will feature only 10 people at a time, as the older Northstars will practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Looking back, COVID-19 has caused a lot of what-ifs when it comes to the Northstars and their season, but with practices in full swing, Wirtzberger is ready to work with his team once again.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre head coach Patch Wirtzberger sanitizes a player's hands during Monday night's practice at Legion Field. The Northstars are the first local team to return to sports since March 13.

"I'm definitely excited," Wirtzberger said. "I know that the kids have been dying to get out there. I'm just ready to get them together, seeing them again and seeing what we got."

Practice did start already Monday evening, when the team had its first experience following the new practice guidelines. Now all there is to do is continue to follow those procedures to better the chance of a season coming to fruition. As practices are the first step to preparing for a season, these guidelines for Havre are the first step to bring about a season where games can be played.

At the end of the day, there is a lot to look forward to for the future of summer baseball for the Northstars. Wirtzberger said he is glad to see there is a possible path to having some semblance of a season.

"It's a step in the right direction," Wirtzberger said. "But we know it could change at any moment. We're just going to take advantage of the time that we're given here to try and get some development done with the kids and see where it goes from there."


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