by Kevin Burton
Blind baseball players have taken their place alongside other athletes sidelined by the Coronavirus.
The National Beep Baseball Association Board of Directors on Saturday, voted 12-3 to cancel the 2020 World Series. The series had been scheduled for July 26 to Aug. 2 in Ames, Iowa.
The decision upholds a recommendation by the league’s tournament committee to cancel the event, which has been held each year since 1976.
Reaction on social media by rank and file players and volunteers was swift and sometimes heated, mostly from those devastated to see this year’s big family reunion cancelled.
Board members who voted to cancel the series said health risks were too high. Those who wanted to stage the series said anyone who wanted to play despite the risk, should get that opportunity.
“I think it’s irresponsible for us to do this with people we consider friends and family,” said board member Kathy Quinn, who voted to cancel. “No matter how hard we try we’re not going to be able to do the social distancing well. We never do.”
Board member Mike Woodard agreed, saying, “We’re putting people at risk. If just one person passes or takes (the virus) home to a family member, that’s a pretty heavy weight for us to bear.”
Jared Woodard was one of the board members who voted to hold the series. He said any teams who attended a series would do so by choice, not by force, after having weighed the risks.
“Even if somebody does get Covid, in no way in my mind am I forcing somebody to come,” Jared Woodard said.
Twenty-two of the league’s 32 registered teams said they would not attend the series if it were held, due to the virus or lack of funding, according to NBBA secretary Steve Guerra. Four regular umpires and five scorekeepers also said they would not attend.
Jared Woodard pointed out that fewer teams would mean extra canopies to help with social distancing and would also reduce the number of umpires and scorekeepers that would be needed.
Members discussed e-mails from officials in Ames concerning safety measures being required by the state of Iowa, but did not always agree on what they meant for teams potentially attending the tournament.
There was discussion of 100-degree temperatures, and players having to wear a mask as well as a blindfold. Board member Jan Traphagen said that could lead to more cases of heat stroke.
The board took less than an hour to make its ruling.
“It’s a tough decision. I want to play,” said NBBA President Blake Boudreau. But to him the risks outweighed the rewards.
“If we don’t have the series the worst thing that happens is we won’t have beep baseball this year at that level,” Boudreau said. “But if we do have it someone could get sick or die.”
The board voted to pursue an idea to host an eight-team regional tournament in Ames next June. The league is already discussing the logistics of that plan with officials from the city of Ames. The last weekend in June is the initial target date.
A world series host city can expect about $500,000 in tourist revenue, Guerra said. Ames will miss out on that, but could recoup some of it if the regional tournament can be arranged.
The board also ruled that member teams that have already sent in their $310 world series entrance fee for 2020 will have a choice of having it refunded or having it count as a credit, perhaps for the 2021 World Series, scheduled for Wichita.
What the sport looks like by the time that tournament rolls around is an ongoing discussion among all who love and play it.