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American Legion cancels its baseball season on a national level

Northstars among many Montana teams looking at options to move forward with the 2020 season


Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre's Ethan Carlson fields a ball during the Northstars' first practice of 2020 last Monday at Legion Field. A week ago, optimism was rising that American Legion Baseball in Montana would at least be able to have a regular season. But over the weekend, the National American Legion Association announced that all legion baseball must be shuttered for the 2020 season. Now, senior teams across Montana are working on a backup plan to operate as an independent organization for the 2020 summer.

Last weekend ended with an out-of-nowhere move by the American Legion Baseball National Organization, which has canceled the 2020 season for all teams that are a part of the organization across the United States.

Originally, the national association only canceled the American Legion World Series and all regional tournaments last month, and left regular seasons and distrcit tournaments up to individual states. However, the association reversed course over the weekend.

But even though there will not be a summer for the American Legion side of things, there is still something that can be done for the many Montana senior baseball teams, including the Havre Northstars, itching to play.

And that something is an option for teams to play as independent clubs without the American Legion sponsorship, code of conduct or insurance. With that in place, Montana clubs, like the Northstars, will have to find their own insurance policies and form a set of rules to have a season this summer. It is the option that many teams, including Havre, are leaning toward after a Zoom meeting that was held Sunday night, following the stunning announcement.

In light of the statement, the Havre Youth Baseball Association released this statement in regard to the cancellation and the course it will be taking going forward.

"HYBA was notified late Sunday evening that American Legion Baseball was shutting down all state affiliations nationwide due to Covid-19," the statement from HYBA said. "The entire state legion program voted Sunday evening to hold some sort of Montana independent league and continue on in the same format as with the American legion affiliation. There are a lot of details to work through and the No. 1 priority of HYBA and the coaches is the safety and well-being of the players. The legion program completed its first week of practice and everything went better than expected. However, until we solidify plans for the new format, practice has been temporarily suspended. We look forward to getting back on the field as soon as possible."

HYBA noted that the change affects the legion program only and not the regular youth city league baseball, as well.

The cancellation by the ALBNO threw another obstacle in the way of the Northstars, who had put forth a good first week of practice after getting approval form the Hill County Health Board.

But now Havre has to rework its plans to adjust to the new requirements to have a season as an independent team. But, at least there is still a chance to take to the field.

Northstars head coach Patch Wirtzberger shared his thoughts on the cancellation and the plan going forward, as well.

"We have hit another bump in the road," Wirtzberger said. "But that doesn't mean our season is over. We have to iron out some details, but I am pretty certain we will be back on the field soon and the schedule shouldn't change all that much."

Montana teams that play legion baseball will likely mobilize for some semblance of a season, independent of American Legion. That is already the course of action many states who partake in legion baseball have taken so far, including South Dakota and Missouri, to name a few. North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin had already canceled their seasons prior to the annoncement this weekend, but 25 states, including Montana, were moving forward.

For now, though, the Northstars, who were supposed to host the Class A State Legion Tournament in July, are back at a standstill. Havre has suspended practices for now and will resume once the plan to play independent baseball is fully in place.

NOTE: Havre Daily News sports editor George Ferguson contributed to this story.


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