Mike Sticha started making contingency plans early on.
In the nascent days of COVID-19 affecting life across the world, country and state, sports leagues quickly put their seasons on the shelf.
For the Minnesota Baseball Association, which generally starts in late April and early May, that need wasn’t as pressing. So as Sticha, the league president for the Dakota, Rice, Scott (DRS) League, mapped out how a truncated schedule might look, even his projections weren’t severe enough.
“We all thought that July 1 was the latest we could start,” Sticha said. “We thought, ‘There’s no way this can go this late, into July, without playing.’ Now it’s becoming real, where maybe we don’t get to start July 1 and maybe it’s not until mid-July.”
After the latest announcements from Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz last Friday, many in the Minnesota amateur baseball community were left with questions about when a 2020 season might start if it’s able to start at all. The state of Minnesota deemed baseball a “medium-risk” sport, meaning any potential games are still tabled for an undisclosed amount of time, although practices in small groups have been permitted for the past couple weeks.
The state board for the MBA is continuing to lobby state representatives to urge Walz to make an exception for baseball to resume as early as in the next week or two.
That brings Sticha’s second and third projections into play.
“This puts us now at the June 15 date and July 1 date as possibilities,” Sticha said. “In both of those models and templates, we would shift from playing every team twice in the season like we typically do to just once. As we get deeper into the summer and we don’t start until July 1, we may forego playing our Class B teams.”
The DRS is made up of 13 teams, 11 of which compete in Class C at the state level and two — the Elko Express and New Market Muskies — are set to compete in Class B this summer.
The 11 Class C teams are the Faribualt Lakers, Londsale Aces, Montgomery Mallards, New Prague Orioles, Prior Lake Mudcats, Shakopee Indians, St. Benedict Saints, St. Patrick Irish, Union Hill Bulldogs, Veseli Warriors and Webster Sox.
If the start to the season is pushed back July 1 — a possibility Sticha said at first didn’t cross his mind, and later believed was a death sentence for the 2020 season — any of his contingency plans are unusable since the Region 3C playoffs typically start in late July.
“If we’re not playing by July 1, then the state governing board is going to need to figure out what sort of timing do they want,” Sticha said. “I would expect them to be more directive if we’re not playing by then.”
As of now, Sticha said he’s been in contact with someone from the MBA state board every few days to receive updates and exchange ideas for how to best maintain some normalcy for how the 2020 season plays out.
If the MBA remains committed to sponsoring a season, and most importantly a state tournament, Sticha said he will do everything he can to have the traditional four teams emerge from Region 3C to the state tournament.
Ideally, he said, there’s a balanced regular season to seed the region playoffs as fairly as possible, but Sticha said he and the DRS will do what they need to in order to stage those region playoffs.
“We would still have all our playoff and region games to see who would go to state,” Sticha said. “State is still kind of the intended goal.”