The American Legion baseball season was cancelled on May 9, done in by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But that certainly didn’t end the hunger by players and coaches to play baseball this summer.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way” played out one more time as a likely one-time baseball league has been created, the Southern Minny.
It includes a pack of mostly Big Nine Conference-based teams, has age divisions of 18-under and 17-under, and is the brainchild of Tom Senne and Tate Cummins. They are the head baseball coaches at Rochester Mayo and Owatonna, respectively.
Play starts July 7 for a league that will emphasize being safe during the pandemic, including temperature checks by players prior to games and practices.
Senne is pleased with the manner in which this all came together.
“It was really a collective effort by a lot of coaches, but Tate Cummins and I took the initiative to throw things together,” Senne said. “We emailed a bunch of coaches and expanded out of our area a little bit to see who was interested.”
What they’ve come up with is the Southern Minny League, which will have 11 teams in an 18-under division and 13 in a 17-under division.
Included in the former are Mayo, John Marshall, Mankato West, Mankato East, Red Wing, Winona, Austin, Owatonna, Faribault, Byron and St. Peter. Century and Lourdes did not have enough interested players for the 18-under division, but do have teams in the 17-under.
Senne is particularly pleased that seniors who recently graduated will get a semblance of a season. Baseball didn’t happen at the high school level this spring in Minnesota due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This bunch of games will allow those seniors one last crack at playing baseball and being with their teammates.
“After everything the seniors have been through, we are happy to have something for them,” Senne said. “This doesn’t make up for losing a (spring) season. But hopefully this offers some healing.”
Mayo 2020 graduate Will Weick is one who’s thrilled to be back playing baseball and doing it with his longtime Mayo teammates.
Weick will play baseball at Augsburg College in the fall. But he is chomping at the bit at this latest “high school” chance.
“I appreciate it a lot,” Weick said. “All we’ve wanted to do was play baseball this summer. Now we’re going to get that chance.”
Senne is hoping to play a schedule that consists of 20-plus games for each team, with a Southern Minny playoff to close things out. He knows, with the unpredictability of COVID-19, that getting all of that in is no certainty.
ST. CHARLES, OTHERS SCHEDULE GAMES
A hodge-podge of schools from the high school Hiawatha Valley League and Three Rivers Conference have also come up with a baseball schedule this summer. That, too, comes in lieu of the American Legion version getting axed this summer.
St. Charles baseball coach Scott McCready was in on getting Lewiston-Altura, Hayfield, Triton, Pine Island, Stewartville and likely Lake City to join his team in playing out a schedule this summer.
Their organization has no league name, but will consist of those schools playing each other in a loose, round-robin fashion.
St. Charles has been practicing under McCready since June 15. Its first game is Monday, when it’ll host Pine Island.
“This has been a real team effort (in getting a season going),” McCready said. “We’ve got a bunch of good guys from these schools who are baseball coaches and want to play.”
McCready doesn’t expect the baseball product to look good right away. Players have been away from the game for too long for that. But he says it will come.
“We looked very rusty the other night,” McCready said. “But I told our kids, ‘This is what you would have looked like in March.’ ”