FARGO — The American Legion Department of North Dakota announced Thursday night via social media that the upcoming Legion baseball season was being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, news that created a strong reaction from some in the Legion community.
The general sentiment: Why not wait?
North Dakota's Department Executive Committee (DEC) heard that reaction. The DEC on Friday night decided to revisit the decision to cancel the upcoming season at its next meeting on April 20 if the coronavirus pandemic situation has changed for the better by that time.
Prior to Friday night's meeting, Fargo Post 2 head coach Luke Rustad voiced his concern with the initial decision to cancel.
“My take is I understand if for the greater good we have to cancel the season,” said Rustad, whose team made it to the Legion World Series title game last summer. “But I don’t think we need to do it if we’re not even in May yet.”
The COVID-19 outbreak has already caused the indefinite suspensions of all high school spring sports in North Dakota, including baseball. No final decision has yet been made on those seasons.
Todd Rheault is the vice president of West Fargo Baseball, which also includes the West Fargo Patriots Legion team. Rheault is also the Class 2A representative for the North Dakota Legion baseball committee. He’s a non-voting member.
“There are just a lot of people who think that it’s a hasty decision,” Rheault said. “Everyone understands the severity of COVID-19. If we’re in the same boat come June 1, everybody totally understands that. There is a possibility of the season being canceled, but almost to a person, it’s too early. … Everybody is under the same umbrella, let’s take a wait-and-see attitude and not make any rash decisions.”
(11) That being said, the decision to cancel Legion Baseball will be revisited during the next DEC meeting on April 20 if the pandemic situation has changed for the better by that time.
(11) That being said, the decision to cancel Legion Baseball will be revisited during the next DEC meeting on April 20 if the pandemic situation has changed for the better by that time.— ndlegion (@NDLegion) April 4, 2020
Rustad said Thursday night's cancellation news caught him off guard as his assistant coach called and asked if he’d seen the announcement on social media.
“I was like, ‘Already?’” Rustad said. “I was surprised that you just make that decision without really keeping people in the loop, even reaching out to coaches.”
Rheault said he anticipates the regional tournaments and American Legion World Series are likely to be canceled for the upcoming season.
“That doesn’t mean each respective state can’t have a regular season and a state tournament,” Rheault said. “If COVID-19 is still a part of it, we’re going to take every precaution. … But once all those guidelines would be lifted and we feel it’s safe, we would try to find a way for these kids to play baseball.”
Post 2 baseball posted a letter on its official Twitter account that said the decision at the state level to cancel the season was “far too soon.” That was posted prior to Friday night's decision to revisit the cancellation.
“As a result, we are actively working to create a schedule for our young men to play baseball as soon as it is safe to do so,” wrote Corey Thompson, the Post 2 Baseball chairman. “We are working with the other clubs in the state to devise a plan. Obviously the Covid-19 virus will dictate that time line. But once it has run its course we are committed to deliver to our players the opportunity to play the sport they love.”
The Mandan Chiefs posted a similar message on their official Twitter account: “Many players, alumni, and fans have heard the news about ND Legion canceling the baseball season. Please know that our board members, coaches, and community members will do everything they can to give our players an opportunity to play this summer!”
On March 22, a letter from the American Legion national headquarters was posted regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of it read the national baseball committee "strongly encourages and recommends that departments suspend all baseball activities ... until all (local, state and federal) restrictions have been lifted."