The afternoon of June 20, the Waterville Indians announced via its Facebook and Twitter pages that two of its players have tested positive for COVID-19.
“We regret to inform you that we will not be playing baseball for 14 days,” the social media posts read. “We had teammates who tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at work. If you experience any symptoms, please call your local COVID-19 hotline.
The night before, the team played in an exhibition game in Waterville against the Jordan Brewers, which won the unofficial contest 4-2.
Later that night, Jordan manager Scott Hollingsworth said he received a phone call from representatives from the Waterville team informing Hollingsworth of the two positive tests.
“Honestly I can’t tell you if they knew or didn’t know (before the game),” Hollingsworth said Sunday. “That’s something to discuss with Waterville, I guess. We got the call on the ride home. That’s all I can tell you, and they can’t specify who it is so I don’t know if they played in the game.”
When asked for specifics regarding the timeline of learning about the positive tests, and any potential changes to the team’s safety procedures once Waterville can again play after two weeks, Waterville manager Joe Grose declined to comment.
“The players and the fans are itching to get back,” Grose said in a June 12 story about the team starting to play exhibition games. “If there is any apprehension with people, they do have the right to come or not to come. We’ll have to follow the guidelines listed with the concession stand. The players will have rules brought in front of them, too.”
Jordan also announced via social media its players will be stopping all baseball activities for the next week to monitor any potential symptoms that arise in any of its players. At this time, no Jordan players are displaying any signs of COVID-19.
Reporters from the Faribault Daily News who attended Waterville’s first exhibition game June 14 against Wells and a June 17 contest against Janesville observed very few to no fans wearing masks. None of the players or umpires in either game wore any form of personal protective equipment, either, which was recommended by the Minnesota Baseball Association when it allowed its member teams to start playing exhibition games.
Workers at the concession stands were wearing the required masks and gloves, but upon entrance to William J. Grose Field neither reporter observed a required self-check form. The form asks anyone entering the park if they’re displaying any symptoms associated with COVID-19, as well as to provide contact information to help with contact tracing in the case of a potential infection at the ballpark.
MBA President Fred Roufs did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.
The MBA made the decision to allow teams to play baseball ahead of Gov. Tim Walz’s decision to allow games to begin this Wednesday, provided they follow the MBA’s COVID-19 preparedness plan and have self-check forms available. Teams that play at city-owned parks needed permission from their city officials to begin play.
Public address announcers at each ballpark are to read a message to emphasize the need for social distancing. The announcement is read before the game, and following the third and sixth innings.
Janesville players test positive, non-baseball related
Some Janesville Jays baseball players have also tested positive for COVID-19, according to manager Scott Kaminski.
Kaminski said the affected players did not contract the virus through baseball activities. The Jays played Waterville last Wednesday and Waterville learned two of its players tested positive for COVID-19 Friday evening following its game against Jordan.
Janesville has quarantined since the positive tests and will do so for 14 days from last Wednesday. Waterville is also quarantining following the positive tests and will quarantine for 14 days. Jordan has paused baseball activities for five to seven days. Kaminski has asked all his players to get tested and monitor their symptoms.
Kaminski said nothing was transmitted when Waterville and Janesville played last Wednesday but that some of his players hadn’t followed social distancing off the field as recommended by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There were no interactions between our guys and their guys,” Kaminski said. “We had some players test positive from non-baseball things.”
Kaminski declined to say how many players have tested positive on his team but said he learned some players had tested positive over the weekend.
“Waterville did everything right in informing the teams as soon as they found out someone tested positive,” he said.