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New Hampshire American Legion baseball season called off

  • The Lebanon Post 22 seniors' Kegan Silovich gets a hit off of Laconia Post 1 pitcher Garrett Demas in the third inning of their game in Lebanon, N.H., on July 12, 2019. Laconia won, 3-2. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/11/2020 2:06:14 PM
Modified: 5/11/2020 9:02:25 PM

LEBANON — Organizers of New Hampshire American Legion baseball held out hope they could get players back on the diamond this summer, up until the end.

Those thoughts flew out the window over the weekend. Granite State Legion officials canceled the season Sunday after receiving word that national headquarters wouldn’t support play at the state level, having called off regional and national tournaments last month.

The decision negates all preparations New Hampshire chairman Rick Harvey had made for the state’s three divisions of play. Harvey testified before Gov. Chris Sununu’s economic reopening task force last week with a plan for the season; he remains hopeful of a ruling within two weeks even though it won’t help get Legion teams on the field.

“I was talking to the Massachusetts guys, and they heard something was going on with national to can the whole thing,” the Hudson-based Harvey said in a phone interview Monday morning. “It had to do with lawsuits; if a kid gets sick, could they sue the facility? … They’re not taking any chances this summer, so they’re withdrawing support of the program.”

In a memorandum to programs sent on Friday, national Americanism Commission Chairman Richard Anderson said Legion posts that still plan on a baseball program will be doing so without endorsement or support.

“We were holding out, hoping for a decision from the state, until we got that email (on Sunday) from national,” Lebanon Post 22 program manager Pete St. Pierre said. “National had left it to each state to do its own thing. Rick had met with the task force, they took it under advisement and would give an answer in two weeks. Then national came back and shut it down for everybody. They kind of took control of it in a hurry.”

Vermont canceled its American Legion baseball season last month.

As it was, significant difficulties were piling up for Harvey and others seeking a New Hampshire schedule. Programs in Rochester, Nashua, Concord and Meredith had all said they wouldn’t be sponsoring teams because they either couldn’t access their usual fields or they couldn’t continue financial support. The state’s Legion posts have been shut down since mid-March by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I was deeply disappointed for the kids that are trying to develop and become college baseball players. I realize that everyone is in the same situation, but these kids put a lot time, effort and money preparing themselves to be good at the game and for them to have to take a whole year off, that’s tough,” said Josh Jarnot, who was scheduled to take over as the manager for Concord Post 21 after serving as an assistant coach for the last six year. “I wanted to play, too, I miss baseball greatly and I’d like to get outside and enjoy the game. But overall, I think it’s probably the most prudent decision.”

With no high school baseball this season, Post 22 planned to hold a three-week “spring training” program for players in advance to a mid-June start to play. However, St. Pierre said SAU 88 isn’t allowing use of the Lebanon High School diamond this summer, and the post had yet to lock down an alternative.

Lebanon Post 22 supports teams at the senior (ages 19 and under) and junior (17 and under) levels. It was also to participate in a first-year prep program for ages 15 and under that featured Sunday games at Manchester’s Gill Stadium until home diamonds were ready for use. The prep season was to begin late last month; teams completed tryouts last autumn.

Post 22 prep coach Dustin Broughton has that team and a 12U squad he also oversees signed up for the Elite Baseball League, a regional operation he compared to AAU basketball. Broughton said he’ll wait for the ruling from the governor’s task force before deciding his next move.

“We’ll see if they’ll even allow it,” Broughton added.

Jarnot had also begun planning practices for a June 20 start, but he had some doubts about how some of proposed health and safety guidelines would be implemented.

“Some of the precautions that we were going to have to follow in order to have a season were going to be difficult. Like umpires being masked, what if it’s 100 degrees out there?” Jarnot said. “And teams were going to have to have a team nurse, someone that had medical knowledge to take temperatures every day and stuff. So, it seemed a little far-fetched, but we were always hopeful that we were going to play.”

Concord Monitor sports editor Tim O’Sullivan contributed to this report.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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