Baseball is already back in one state and fans were there to witness it

Mark Townsend
Yahoo Sports Contributor

While Major League Baseball and the MLB players association continue negotiating a potential return to the field in 2020, another baseball league in the United States quietly returned on Thursday night.

And there were even fans in the stands to witness it.

The Missoula Mavericks hosted the Helena Senators in the first game of the American Legion baseball season in Montana. The season was to have opened on Wednesday, but rain forced the game to be postponed. It was worth the wait for the players. They were thrilled to get back on the field after sports were essentially shut down in March.

“It feels great to play again,” Helena's Cy Miller told the Independent Record. “At first, it was kind of nerve-racking because there were a ton of people here. But it was great that everyone wanted to come out and support us.”

Helena Senators coaches Al Goebel (left) and Anthony Hogan talk near the dugout during the amateur baseball game against the Missoula Mavericks. (Photo by Janie Osborne/Getty Images)

Fans were asked to social distance

Signs around the ballpark reminded fans that seating in each section would be limited and they were expected to stay six feet apart, according to the Independent Record. Hand sanitizer stations were available throughout the ballpark, and most in attendance were seen wearing masks. That included many of the players.

Despite those guidelines, there was a noticeably higher attendance than usual.

“It seemed like we were up a little bit [in attendance],” Senators head coach Jon Burnett said after the game. “I expected us to be up a little bit with nothing else going on. People are wanting baseball, and I'm just glad we were able to get back on the field.”

There is a definite hunger for baseball to return on a grander scale. That is why so many fans are focused on the on-going discussions between MLB and the MLBPA. The process has moved slowly to start. The two sides have yet to find common ground on health and safety issues. When, or perhaps if, that bridge is crossed, the focus will turn to compensation.

Matters were less complicated in Montana. Among the 50 states, Montana has the second-fewest confirmed cases (479), behind only Alaska. The state is nearly two months past its peak, when 35 cases were confirmed on March 26. No new cases were reported on Thursday. The state’s lowered risk is what allowed baseball to return.

Here are some more images from Thursday’s game.

(Photo by Janie Osborne/Getty Images)
(Photo by Janie Osborne/Getty Images)
(Photo by Janie Osborne/Getty Images)

Helena won the season opener, 10-5.

The American Legion season will get into full swing this weekend in Montana when Missoula hosts a Memorial Day tournament.

What is American Legion Baseball?

American Legion Baseball has been around for nearly a century. It began in 1925, and serves as another option for amateur players to hone their skills or simply continue playing baseball deep into the summer.

The program is open to players ages 13 to 19 and is available in all 50 states plus Canada.

While most states have already canceled their Legion seasons, Montana and Nebraska will continue on.

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