Normally this time period is a calm before a storm for Newton Rebels Baseball organizers. Normally the roster is set, sponsorships procured and fields reserved for the upcoming summer college baseball season. Board members, coaches and players are just waiting to report and the season to start.
Normally. But this spring has been anything but normal as Harvey County, Kansas, the nation and world have tried to deal with the spread of COVID-19. Until late last week, it was unclear if there would even be a baseball season.
Despite announcements by the Sunflower Collegiate Baseball League, of which the Newton Rebels are a member, there is still some doubt. But after Gov. Laura Kelly announced a four-phase plan to reopen the state, baseball set to return.
“We are definitely going to try and get it going,” said general manager Mark Carvalho during a virtual meeting of the Rebels board Sunday night. “... We should know more on the milestone for phase two, May 18.”
May 18 group size limits will move to 30 people, and that limit will go to 90 on June 1 if things remain on track with the governor’s plan. June 15 things open up even more, but there will be logistics to deal with.
“My concern would be 90 is — That’s players, staff and patrons who would come,” said Kathy Valentine, who volunteers for the team to operate concessions for home games. “Social distancing is for everyone, not just players and coaches. ... It is managing people who come to watch the games.”
Issues facing the Rebels at this time include adjusting sponsorships to reflect, most likely, restricted crowd sizes at games; figuring out how to house players and game day operations to reflect social distancing guidelines.
“This is just different from anything we are used to,” Carvalho said.
“Maintaining social distance in a dugout is not possible,” said team trainer Brooke Powers. “I am trying to figure out the best way to keep social distancing and screening too. We are going to need to put in place a screening policy, whether that is temperature checks or what that is.”
That will also mean players bringing their own equipment and as little equipment shared as possible.
The team is working on where those players will stay. As of Sunday, the team needed hosts for 18 players.
“We are going to need some host families,” Carvalho said. “... And we have to look out if we get someone from one of (listed) states they need to quarantine for two weeks. We don’t know how that would go down. There are a lot of questions.”
The schedule is being rewritten — one team dropped out of the league, at the last league meeting it was discussed that teams will play a four game series against every other team in the leage. That would be a 32 game schedule.
The league hopes to be finished and able to compete in a National Baseball Congress tournament, however, it is unclear what will happen with the NBC.
“We need to find out what is going to happen with the Wichita Wind Surge,” Carvalho said.
New players are being signed as the league adjusts roster limits — allowing teams to carry more players. This week the team announced the signing of three players from Wichita State.