Moscow Legion

Moscow’s Mack Hagenbaugh slides safely into home plate during an American Legion baseball game in 2019 against Coeur d’Alene. After pulling the plug on the season because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Idaho American Legion board of directors had a change of heart, and voted to move forward with plans for a season. Moscow’s is one of several teams who will play Legion baseball this summer. The Lewis-Clark American Legion Executive Board is scheduled to meet and make a decision on its season today.

MOSCOW — The coronavirus cliche that things change by the minute is evident no more perfectly than with youth baseball in Idaho.

The latest decision is American Legion baseball is back on in the state.

The verdict follows first a decision by the national Legion organization to cancel its major tournaments, then a decision by the Idaho organization to go forward with a season, then a decision to cancel the season — and now back to playing ball.

The Moscow Blue Devils Single-A and junior teams are among those that will play this season. Lewiston’s Legion fate will be decided in a vote today, Lewis-Clark American Legion Baseball Executive Board president Patti Meshinshek told the Tribune on Tuesday.

Moscow Baseball Organization president Dennis Wilson said the Idaho American Legion Board of Directors voted 9-2 last week to provide a season in a change of heart. So the MBO reconvened and voted unanimously to also go forward with Legion baseball in Moscow.

Blue Devils coach Stan Mattoon said the teams will be able to wear their Legion uniforms and compete against other teams in an official manner, rather than going on as an independent team, which was one of the options considered.

“We’re fortunate again to have this opportunity and we’re really excited about it,” Mattoon said.

The Blue Devils held some of their tryouts Sunday and will finish them this week, weather permitting.

“We’re calling it the ‘season of change,’ because we’ve got to be able to change with this as we go,” Mattoon said. “The players have to be good with it, the parents have to be good with it and we just got to be able to make it work.

“We know if something weird or crazy happens, it can be yanked out from under us at any given time ... but we’re going to ride it as long as we can.”

The Sunday tryouts were the first form of organized baseball in the state this year since the coronavirus shutdown sports in mid-March.

“Just to see these guys out on a field, smiling and having a baseball glove on, you could just kind of feel that it was a little bit of normalcy,” Mattoon said. “It was good to see them smile and be happy.”

Players in groups of five participated in drills for about an hour before the next group came in. All players had their temperature checked before they began and they had to follow social distancing protocols, Mattoon said.

The state Legion organization is following Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s progressive plan for reopening the state from stay-at-home orders.

Stage 3, set to begin May 29, would allow gatherings of 10 to 50 people, opening the possibility of practices with a full team. June 13 is the earliest date games could be played.

“We’ve been in contact with the Idaho Department of Health, so they’ve been wonderful as far as guiding us to what we’re going to be doing,” Mattoon said. “For a while ... there’s going to be temperature checks before practices, there’s going to be temperature checks before games, there’s going to be a lot of hand washing and a lot of hand sanitizing, and a lot of distancing, but at least we’re on a field and doing something in relation to baseball.”

Mattoon said most of the teams across Idaho plan to play, including several in northern Idaho, including teams from Orofino, Sandpoint, Grangeville, Coeur d’Alene, Rathdrum, possibly Bonners Ferry and possibly Kellogg/Wallace/Silver Valley.

There also is a chance for a state tournament at the end of the season, but that will be worked out down the road.

Much is left to be finalized in terms of having fans or parents at games and using team dugouts, Mattoon said, but they’re just happy to be making progress towards playing ball.

“For these kids — and I’ve got a lot of older guys on my squad this year — it gives them an opportunity (to play), and we’re proud to be able to give them that opportunity,” Mattoon said. “I just hope they’re able to see it to the end.”

Wiebe can be reached at swiebe@dnews.com, by phone at (208) 883-4624 and on Twitter at @StephanSports.

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