It's game on for the Rochester Royals.
The amateur baseball team got the word this week that it could begin the 2020 season, and the Royals are wasting no time. The Royals will open play in an abbreviated season on Thursday when they host the Austin Greyhounds at 7:30 p.m. at Mayo Field.
"I think we'll have 15 or 16 games in July and then playoffs right away in August," Royals player/manager Tim Oesterlin said. "We're super excited, a lot of young guys are on the team this year. We're going to try to get guys in as many games as possible."
The season was delayed as part of Gov. Tim Walz's stay-at-home mandate due to COVID-19. The restrictions have slowly been lifted and amateur baseball games are now being allowed. But teams have to maintain a safe set of guidelines.
"We have the whole COVID social distancing guidelines we're supposed to follow," Oesterlin said. "No (sunflower) seeds in the dugouts, no spitting, things like that, so it will be interesting."
If any players test positive for COVID-19, they will be out a minimum of two weeks and other players on the team will not be able to play until they are tested and test negative.
"With a short schedule, hopefully we can avoid that because it's going to be pretty tough to make up any games if anybody does come down with COVID," Oesterlin said. "Otherwise you're talking about maybe having to forfeit games or play a ton of games in a week to make things up."
HORVATH JOINS ROYALS
The Royals will have a lot of fresh faces this season, including some players who just graduated from high school. One high-profile newcomer is Mac Horvath, who was considered one of the top 100 prospects in the nation. He went undrafted in the five rounds of the recent Major League Baseball amateur draft and will play college ball at the University of North Carolina in the fall.
"We have Mac Horvath for about a month before he heads off to North Carolina," Oesterlin said. "So it will be awesome to have him around for what will most likely be his only year of amateur baseball."
Other 2020 grads on the team include Century's Logan Milene, Mayo's Will Weick and Triton's Derek Lilledahl. All three are headed to play college ball.
"Hopefully we can keep them around for as long as possible during playoffs; that's always the big thing at playoffs and state, the young guys go back to school," Oesterlin said.
Some other young players on the squad are current college players Hayden Brown (Lourdes grad), Travis Rittenhouse (Century) and Mayo grads Sam Warren and Alex Prindle.
"I think it's actually going to be a little bit of a younger team," Oesterlin. "If all goes well and according to plan, we're going to kind of turn it over to the young guys and sit back and watch them go."
The Royals will also feature many of their veteran players such as Drew Block, Jordan Stokes, Dave Rojo, recent college grad Michael Michalak (who played at Illinois and for the Rochester Honkers), Erik Thorvilson, Josh Conley and brothers Mike and Matt Stubbs.
Former minor-league pitchers Matt Meyer, a lefty, and right-hander Mitch Brown are also on the team.
"I think there's a lot of excitement and guys are obviously ready to go and are excited for the summer," Oesterlin said. "And hopefully everyone stays healthy."
The Royals will be playing all of their home games at Mayo Field. Fans will be allowed into games, but Oesterlin is unsure if any concessions will be available.
"We're going to try to make sure that obviously everybody can stay safe — players and also fans — and enjoy a little bit of baseball this summer while we can," Oesterlin said.
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Logan Milene (C), Will Weick (P), Derek Lilledahl (P), Drew Block (1B/3B), Jordan Stokes (INF), Dave Rojo (C), Michael Michalak (INF/OF), Josh Conley (P), Mike Stubbs, Matt Stubbs (3B/OF), Tim Oesterlin (OF/P), Matt Meyer (P), Mitch Brown (P), Mac Horvath (INF/P), Hayden Brown 1B/OF/P), Travis Rittenhouse (OF), Sam Warren (1B/OF), Alex Prindle (C), Zach Smith (P), Jared Campbell (INF), Alex Holets (INF), Jake Halverson (SS/P), Brad Pfeffer (P), Ryan Maiers (P), Palmer Mickelson (P), Jaret Stellmaker (P), Nick Pearson (2B/SS), Dave Adams (1B/DH), Chad Wiesner (P), Erik Thorvilson (P).
Home games at Mayo Field
(* -- Section 1B games)
June 25 -- Austin Greyhounds, 7:30 p.m.
June 27 -- Stewartville-Racine Sharks, 7 p.m.
June 28 -- at Cannon Falls Bears*, 2 p.m.
July 1 -- New Market Muskies, 7:30 p.m.
July 5 -- Northfield Knights*, 2 p.m.
July 8 -- at Miesville Mudhens*, 8 p.m.
July 10 -- Dundas Dukes*, 7:30 p.m.
July 12 -- at Hampton*, 2 p.m.
July 15 -- Lake City Serpents*, 7:30 p.m.
July 17 -- at Dundas Dukes*, 7:30 p.m.
July 18 -- Minneapolis Cobras, 3 p.m.
July 19 -- at Elko, Wis., 2 p.m.
July 22 -- at Northfield Knights*, 7:30 p.m.
July 24 -- Miesville Mudhens*, 7:30 p.m.
July 25 -- at New Market, 2 p.m.
July 26 -- at Faribault, 2 p.m.
July 29 -- Hampton*, 7:30 p.m.
July 31 -- Elko, 7:30 p.m.