By Jeremy McDonald
TURNER, Ore.– The Boys of Summer are back.
As the weekend comes to a close Sunday, the Stayton Bandits converged on Turner City Park for one of their first practices of the summer season. 12 kids were out in the afternoon sun knocking off the cobwebs from the quarantine for the sounds, smells and senses of the sport that they love.
Bandits and Regis Head Baseball coach Kyle Baker’s biggest goal was to get them back on the field as things begin opening up as the squad prepares to go to play in Idaho on June 12.
“That was my biggest goal was to get these guys back on the field. We all love baseball. We live and breathe it. To have this opportunity for these guys get back on the field was my number-one priority,” said Baker. “We don’t do for the recognition or the money, it’s all volunteer. We’re giving these kids something to look forward too.
“The last three months have been a downer, especially these Seniors that have their Senior seasons canceled. It’s definitely not the way you want to end anything. Just try to get them in a jersey one last time was my number one priority.”
Seniors like Jared Mitchell from Stayton, Regis’ Joe Alley were on the field with non-senior athlete’s like Cascade’s David Kanoff and Caleb Boyles, Stayton’s Tanner Manning and Blanchet Catholic’s Lupe Peralta Sunday.
Baker was already looking at tournaments in Idaho when American Legion decided not to go forth with having a State Season this year, leaving teams with the tough decision to field a team with insurance on their own on an independent-status or not decide to have a season. Some have decided to go ahead and not field their team’s this summer.
The Rams Head Coach also put his team into the Willamette Valley Men’s League for the summer. The league made a one-year exemption this year to allow High School players to join the league to allow them to get games in.
“The thing right now is to find the insurance; it can be pretty expensive and try to pass it onto parents. With American Legion canceled, that kind of took away our opportunity to have a program in a league that provided that insurance with the registration fees and stuff,” said Baker. “Finding out they go this men’s league that has been around for a long time, they have the insurance for it and they were able to get a one-year exemption to allow High School age players to join the league. That’s huge.”
The strange fact of the situation on hand is trying to find an open park to practice. In Phase 1 city parks are open. The Bandits went to Millersburg City Park for their first practice of the year a few days ago before arriving at Turner City Park’s baseball field Sunday after hearing the field opening up.
Baker also made calls out to Volcanoes Stadium, Oregon State to see what possibilities they are of a field opening up somewhere down the line. Just trying to live the dream of the old sandlot days of nine dudes playing defense with a handful of batters to go up against. Just a kid with a bat, ball and glove trying to ball out.
And yes, things will look different this summer for sure. But as the calendar flips from May to June and Stayton comes back to practice Wednesday to prepare for their first game of not just the Summer, but of the year, the key word here is normalcy and taking advantage of opportunities when they are presented.
“Absolutely that’s exactly it, normalcy is key,” said Baker. “The opportunity to play and watching these guys on the diamond is a blast and that’s why I do it. Develop relationships with these kids and their families keeps bringing me back. It’s a great group of young men and I’m just happy to go over to Boise with them and seeing them on the diamond competing again. That’s the ultimate goal.”
The June 12-14 tournament will be the first of two tournaments Stayton will have in Idaho. The other being July 10-12 at Post Falls, Idaho.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald