Payton Cleaves Runnin Rebels

The Pocatello Runnin’ Rebels’ Payton Cleaves, in blue, stretches his hit into a triple, beating the throw to Upper Valley third baseman Karter Yancey (23) during a game on July 18, 2019, during the Double-A Area C Legion baseball tournament at Halliwell Park.

Region and national tournaments have been canceled

While Idaho’s high school spring sports season is further in doubt with each passing day, hope is still strong that there will be American Legion baseball season this summer — even though the organization canceled its regional and national tournaments.

Idaho American Legion Baseball Chairman Charles Abrahamson said he still plans to have a season, district tournaments and state tournaments this summer, giving prospective college baseball players in the Gem State a chance to prove themselves to scouts and recruiters if the high school season is canceled.

But like everything else, the fate of Idaho’s Legion baseball season hinges on the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re just in a holding pattern right now, waiting to see what happens with all the stay-at-home orders and (social gathering limitations),” Abrahamson said. “We hope that’ll pass here soon.”

On Tuesday, the Americanism Commission, which supervises and coordinates national committee activity for the American Legion, announced the cancellation of this year’s regional championship tournaments and American Legion World Series. Teams may struggle to complete mandated league games and state tournaments by the July 30 deadline because of stay-at-home orders and other state-issued health mandates, and the travel associated with playing at the regional and national tournaments puts thousands of people — coaches, players, spectators — at risk of contracting COVID-19, the announcement said.

The Idaho Falls Bandits won last year’s World Series, becoming Idaho’s first American Legion baseball national champions.

Because of those cancellations, Idaho’s American Legion has more flexibility. The season can start later and/or end later since there’s no deadline to qualify for regionals and the World Series.

The season will likely need to be adjusted, regardless. Abrahamson said that if Idaho’s high school season doesn’t resume, Legion teams may be required to practice for two to three weeks before playing a game, helping players get in shape after being sidelined during the spring.

Normally, Legion games begin shortly after the high school season ends, allowing players to maintain their fitness with a limited layoff.

There’s also the possibility, however slim, that high school state tournaments are moved back on the calendar, which would also push back the Legion start date.

In the meantime, teams can still register for the upcoming season.

“I still have teams registering and getting their insurance paid, their background checks done,” Abrahamson said. “We’re still moving forward to, hopefully, have a season.”