The Minnesota Department of Health updated its guidelines for youth and adult sports on June 19 that has given the go-ahead to resume outdoor games and scrimmages on June 24 under a long list of guidelines.

The Minnesota Baseball Association is doing what it can to make sure each of its teams adheres to those guidelines by implementing a zero-tolerance policy. It won’t be baseball as usual this summer, but it’s time to play ball.

“I think everybody is excited to get back on the field and play,” Osakis Hawks player/manager Doug Zimmel said on June 23. “It’s going to be kind of overwhelming to get a schedule going with limited weekends. There’s times now where people have already scheduled something, so it will be good to get back on the field, but it will be a process to do it.”

Zimmel and the Hawks will get their season started this weekend with a Sunday game at 4 p.m. in Kensington. Clarke Comer of the Carlos Cougars said their plan is to play every Sunday in July at 4 p.m. and a few Fridays that month with 7 p.m. first pitches.

Carlos and Osakis join Resorters League teams in Urbank-Parkers Prairie, Sauk Centre, Alexandria, Long Prairie, Ashby, Millerville and Kensington that are working now trying to set a schedule. Like many others, managers of those teams did not know what to expect in terms of being given the go-ahead as the summer progressed in unchartered territory during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been waiting, and most of us probably thought there wasn’t going to be a season,” Zimmel said. “Now that they opened it up, a lot of guys are excited to come out and play again.”

Amateur teams in the state play under the umbrella of the Minnesota Baseball Association, and the MBA has issued a hard stance on making sure teams abide by its COVID-19 preparedness plan. That plan has a list of 10 guidelines teams must follow or risk being removed from play. The guidelines include social distancing of players in dugouts, no handshakes or high fives and no spitting or chewing sunflower seeds or tobacco.

“It’s going to be tough to do, but you just have to keep preaching it to the guys,” Zimmel said of enforcing all the guidelines. “We haven’t had the go-ahead to play at our field because it’s school owned, so we’re limited to like Kensington’s field, Urbank’s field, Carlos’ field. We got to respect what they’re trying to do to allow us to play. We have to follow the rules as best we can.”

Zimmel said he wasn’t sure if the Hawks would be able to play any home games in Osakis at all this summer, but that teams from other communities with city-owned parks have been willing to host them and others in similar situations in the Resorters League to get in games.

In addition to following all the guidelines set forth, the MBA also updated its COVID-19 protocol on June 23 that states any player who tests positive for COVID-19 must sit out for 14 days from the positive test. Teammates, coaches and umpires involved in a game with a player who tested positive must also sit out two weeks or until the MBA receives a negative nasal swab test for those individuals.

Baseball is back under much different circumstances this summer. For those who love the game, just having it back is welcome news.

“You appreciate being able to play,” Zimmel said. “Everybody loves baseball and it’s been a pretty boring summer without it, but each team just has to work together and try to make the most of this. It’s such a short season, but we’ll try to get as many games in so we’re prepared for regions and if you make it to the state tournament.”