In this June 21, 2019 file photo, Owatonna’s Kodey Kiel covers first and takes a throw from pitcher Brandon Wolf on Wednesday night during a Twin River League baseball game against the Dodge County Diamondbacks at Dartts Park. The Aces have announced a condensed 10-game schedule that will take place in a 23-day span. (Photos by Jon Weisbrod/People’s Press, file)

It was a slow burn that came close to detonating the entire season, but amateur baseball will be played in Minnesota this summer.

And that includes Owatonna.

Roughly 48 hours after a pivotal decision that approved the city of New Ulm to host the state tournament, the Owatonna Aces informed the People’s Press, and announced publicly via social media, that they will, indeed, take the field this summer.

At around 9 a.m. on Thursday, the team posted this to its official Twitter account: “We officially have been cleared for play! We have a 10-game schedule that starts and ends in July, followed by playoffs. Obviously things will be slightly different and we await word on if concessions will be allowed, but fans are welcome!!”

The Aces — who have purchased the requisite insurance and are cleared to use the city-operated Dartts Park — will open the season at Austin on Wednesday, July 1 before playing their first home game a week later against Pine Island.

In total, Owatonna will play 10 games in 23 days against seven different teams. The final nine contests will take place in a 16-day stretch from July 8 to July 24 and include back-to-back-to-back games July 10-12.

The Aces’ home schedule looks like this: July 8 vs. Pine Island; July 15 vs. Dodge County; July 19 vs. Winona; July 22 vs. Austin; July 24 vs. Waseca).

Just two weeks ago, Owatonna manager Brian Simon admitted he thought the chances of salvaging any semblance of an actual season were less than 50/50. When he spoke to the People’s Press on June 12, Governor Tim Walz had yet to announce whether organized sports were going to be permitted this summer and baseball was being deemed a “medium risk” activity.

However, starting with the approval of exhibition contests on June 15, things progressed quickly and ultimately led to the Minnesota Baseball Association’s announcement that a state tournament site had been approved.

According to the MBA, all games played starting June 21 “will count toward the four-game requirement” for postseason eligibility.

As of Thursday, it is unclear where the Region 5C tournament will be held, but the site for the state tournament has been approved by virtue of a 10-2 vote by the New Ulm Baseball Association that reversed its original decision from last week that rejected moving forward as a potential host.

According to the Mankato Free Press, state tournament games will be played at Johnson Park and Miller Park and the “stadiums will be cleared after each game so that seating areas can be disinfected. There will also be hand sanitizing stations throughout each park.”

The Free Press went on to mention that both venues can host roughly 1,000 spectators, but Minnesota Department of Health guidelines currently restricts outdoor gatherings to 250 people or less.

Teams have until June 30 to sign or release players and playoff rosters are due by July 15 with no exceptions.

All teams that have elected to play this summer must abide by the Minnesota Baseball Association’s COVID-19 Protocol that details an extended list of safety and logistical procedures enacted to help cope with the current pandemic. Mirroring the standard practice of minimum quarantine and distancing rules, all players that test positive are not allowed to take the field for 14 days starting from the day results were confirmed.

A comprehensive list of the MBA’s procedures can be found at mnbaseball.org.

Reach sports editor Jon Weisbrod at 444-2375, or follow him on Twitter.com @OPPJonW. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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