FARGO — The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks have a clean bill of COVID-19 health heading into the American Association baseball season, which opens Friday.
The RedHawks announced late Sunday night that tests for all their players and coaches came back negative for the coronavirus. That includes 26 players and five coaches/clubhouse staff.
The players were tested late last week as training camp started for an abbreviated season that is starting late due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Happy to report that after that after the first round of COVID testing all RedHawks players and staff have tested negative," said RedHawks interim manager Chris Coste in a video released by the team. "Now we can focus a little bit more on the baseball side of things like we all want, we still know that we still have to take the precautions and do our part."
The RedHawks start the regular season at 7:02 p.m. Friday at Newman Outdoor Field against the Winnipeg Goldeyes. The season, which was scheduled to start in May, has been shortened to 60 games due to COVID-19. The American Association usually has a 100-game regular season.
"It's definitely a relief because with obviously most cases being asymptomatic, we come from all different parts of the country, not knowing who anybody is surrounding themselves with," said RedHawks infielder Correlle Prime. "It's cool that we can proceed with our baseball activities while still preparing ourselves properly and maintaining social distancing in areas where we absolutely can. At the ball field, that's a perfect place for it. I'm excited."
Prime played for the RedHawks last season, batting .312 with 18 home runs and 77 RBIs in 97 games. He also had 25 doubles.
RedHawks general manager Matt Rau said there will be random testing throughout the season for the coronavirus and for anyone who is symptomatic. In addition, players will be tested several times throughout the year.
"We were happy that they all came back negative, but knowing we have to be vigilant as this year goes to make sure that the guys are doing everything within their power to stay healthy," Rau said.
Fargo is one of the three hub cities in the league this summer and the RedHawks are sharing their stadium with Winnipeg. The Sioux Falls Canaries are sharing their ballpark with the St. Paul Saints, while the Milwaukee Milkmen are sharing their stadium with the Chicago Dogs.
Six of the league's 12 teams are operating this summer due to the pandemic. That means the league's talent will be more concentrated with less teams.
"This season has a chance to be on the field the most exciting and highest level of play that this league has ever seen," Coste said.
RedHawks outfielder Brennan Metzger is returning for his third season for the RedHawks. Metzger batted .314 for F-M last season with 19 doubles, nine triples, eight home runs and 41 RBIs in 99 games. He also had 18 stolen bases.
"It's just amazing to know that, hey, everybody is here healthy and we can actually get this thing rolling and it's not upended before it starts," said RedHawks outfielder Brennan Metzger. "We're going to have to take all the regular precautions to make sure that we keep it that way. ... We're going to be cautious and not fearful of the pandemic."