Amid much uncertainty, high school sports finally have a definitive return date.
After the spring sports season was canceled, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, along with the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and Iowa High School Athletic Association gave approval for the summer sports season to start on June 1.
“The IHSAA thanks ... Gov. Reynolds ... (the Iowa Department of Public Health) and all who have worked diligently to develop these guidelines to help us conduct a baseball season for the young people in Iowa,” IHSAA executive director Tom Keating said.
“We trust that our administrators, coaches, umpires and fans will responsibly follow the guidelines in place to keep themselves and each other safe. This is terrific news and is a step toward getting our student-athletes reconnected to the activities that mean so much to them.”
Practices were originally to commence on May 4, but high school sports were halted on April 17 in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
"At this point, I was starting to think that every day that went by, there was a greater and greater chance that we weren't going to play," Wapello head baseball coach Brandon Brown said. "I'm in a little bit of shock today.
"Shortened season or not, it's important (the team) gets an opportunity (to compete)."
The April 17 ruling effectively ended spring sports and put summer sports in state of limbo.
"I feel for the the spring athletes that didn't get a season," said West Liberty softball coach Chad Libby, "so we're fully aware of how lucky we are and it's great to be able to give (team) some semblance of a season.
"At the same time, there's still so many questions out there — how the season will look, what we're going to do. It's too early to know ... Those are all things we have to work through. I have tons of meetings relative to those types of things, because I don't think anybody knows the answers yet."
The approval date to start is for practices only, so schools will be putting together schedules for the condensed season in the coming days. The expectation is that teams will get to have about a 20-game season before tournament play begins.
“The guidelines laid out by the Department of Education and the Department of Public Health will enable us to safely move forward with a softball season this summer,” IGHSAU executive director Jean Berger said. “We are grateful for their leadership and support.
“We know the games will have different circumstances and that we will all have to work together to keep everyone safe, but we are confident that we are up to this challenge.”
Coaches are expecting about a two-week practice period before games start. Further measures as far as social distancing and other restrictions are expected to be put into place as well.
"The biggest struggle for me has been that there's only so much you can do as far as organizing and planning and getting ready for the season," Muscatine softball coach Steve Hopkins said. "Even at this point, we still don't know if there's going to be limitations or restrictions on practices."
Among coaches, the theme of the day was one of happiness not just for the teams around the state, but in particular the senior class who get to have their final season.
"I'm really happy for the seniors, for sure," Louisa-Muscatine head softball coach Bryan Butler said. "We're really excited to get in there and get going."
"We're super excited at West Liberty that we have an opportunity for those seniors to play this season," Libby said.
That sentiment was echoed on the baseball side as well.
"I am thrilled that the players, especially the seniors, will get to play the game we love," Muscatine baseball coach Grant Pippert said. "The staff and players put a lot of work in since the community last saw us play."
Several area softball teams enter with high expectations.
Wapello, Louisa-Muscatine and West Liberty all made it to the state tournament last season. L-M defeated West Liberty to get to the Class 3A championship before losing to Davenport Assumption 7-4 in the final. West Liberty took the third-place consolation game over Waterloo Columbus.
For baseball, Wilton is the top returning squad, but it must fill holes left by several key members lost to graduation from last season's 24-5 squad. The Beavers lost in the Class 2A Substate 4 championship to Central Lee.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!