In a normal year, Blair Hanna and the Red Deer Legends would be well into their baseball season, planning trips across the province and into the United States.
But alas, with the COVID-19 pandemic altering the world as we know it, Hanna is just happy that his team and the Red Deer Men’s Twilight Baseball League can hit the field this season.
The Legends are the so-called grandfathers of the bunch – they feature a core group of about seven or eight players who have played together for the past 20 years or so, and are well into their 60s.
“I think it’s just wanting to play baseball. Some guys have been playing for the last 20 to 30 years, and some guys haven’t played for 20 years, but want to play again. We try to stay together,” said Hanna, who added his team practised a fair amount in the winter at The Dome, before the shutdown happened.
The league they play in, which is for players over the age of 30, usually has about 10 teams. This year, they’re down to eight, because a few teams had players with other commitments after it looked like a season wasn’t in the cards.
But starting on June 22, they gathered at Great Chief Park, with players signing COVID-19 waivers before they hit the field, ensuring they are symptom free.
There’s some mask wearing for any positions that can’t properly socially distance and plenty of handwashing, sanitizing for balls and bats and other high-touch spots.
“We’re trying to mitigate all possible problems. It all comes down to social distancing, sanitizing,” he added.
Hanna recognizes that his older group of players is at a higher risk for COVID-19 and that might mean a 75-year-old first baseman taking a step back from holding a runner on first base – while the runner waits to steal until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand.
“That’s not a big deal, but it’s just keeping a 70-year-old first baseman away from a huffing and puffing runner,” Hanna said.
Whatever it takes, though, and Hanna is happy to see that baseball is finally back.