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Howard County Sports

Maryland’s 2020 American Legion baseball season canceled due to coronavirus pandemic

The Maryland American Legion summer baseball season has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As sports cancellations spread across the nation, a staple in Maryland summer baseball will have to take this summer off.

Due to concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic and liability issues thereof, the American Legion summer baseball season in Maryland has been canceled.

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On April 7, Mike Riston, chairman of the Department of Maryland American Legion Baseball Committee, announced the cancelation of the Department of Maryland 2020 Senior and Junior ALB tournaments.

The decision came after the Americanism Commission and National Commander James W. Bill Oxford announced in late March the cancellation of the American Legion World Series, as well as the eight regional tournaments.

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“As hard as it was to make these decisions, the safety of all players, managers coaches, umpires, parents and fans must always come first,” said Bill Cauley, Department of Maryland American Legion Baseball Committee secretary, in an email to Maryland American Legion coaches in early April.

A total of 25 legion teams had already registered in Maryland for the 2020 summer season prior to the cancellation of the season — 13 junior teams and 12 senior teams. The leagues and seasons can still continue, but there will be no state tournament and the teams can’t be associated with American Legion baseball if they play this summer.

“We followed their lead,” Cauley said. “They said they would not sanction any legion ball this year and any teams that want to play an independent schedule are free to do that, but they can’t use the American Legion name. It’s a liability thing.”

There are at least nine legion squads in the Baltimore region — Mt. Airy Post 191, Sykesville Post 223, Laurel Post 60, Severna Park Post 175, Pasadena Post 277, Glen Burnie Post 40, Annapolis Post 7, Severn Post 276 and Dundalk Post 38. While several legion coaches differed in some opinions, they all agreed the safety of the players and their families is what matters most.

“Once I found out that the region tournaments and the World Series were canceled, I knew the states wouldn’t be far behind,” said George Richardson III, who was preparing for his first season as the head coach of Sykesville Post 223. “They’re erring on the side of caution, and that’s the best way to do it. If we started doing stuff and the kids got sick, that doesn’t look good on anybody.”

For many senior baseball players, the legion season was their last hope to play competitive baseball. Their high school seasons have been postponed due to the coronavirus, and some of them won’t be playing in college.

“Taking baseball away from baseball people is tough,” said Richardson III, who coached at South Carroll High School from 1998-2011. “It’s a crazy thing we’re dealing with. No one expected it to be like this.”

“I was disappointed it was called as early as it was, without knowing all the facts about how long the shutdown would go on,” said Kenneth Langston, head coach of Dundalk Post 38. “But, at the end of the day, you want everyone to be safe and healthy. If this is what’s required, this is what we have to do.”

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One question raised by the coaches was regarding why the decision was made in early April — two months before the start of the American Legion season and nearly four months before the American Legion World Series.

One of the reasons, many opined, was monetary, as coaches are required to pay registration and insurance fees to participate as an American Legion team. The longer it took to make a decision, the more teams would have paid those fees with the season in question. Some teams had paid those fees prior to the cancellation, and Cauley said there hasn’t been a decision by the national headquarters yet regarding those payments.

“I bow to the folks who are in charge, and safety is the most important thing,” said Douglas “Doc” Drewyer, Laurel Post 60 head coach. “But I wondered, when I found out that the season was canceled, about what the factors were that went into that decision. ... I believe there was something with people paying their registration fees for their teams and buying the insurance and how they’d deal with that.”

In a file photo from June 2018, Laurel Post 60 head coach Douglas "Doc" Drewyer hits ground balls to his infield during practice at Marriotts Ridge High School.

“I paid the registration and insurance already,” said Matt Friesen, head coach of Pasadena Post 277’s junior legion team. “That’s something as a coach that I front out of pocket, and I haven’t contacted them yet about what’s happening with that money.”

Overall, the season was canceled due to a combination of safety concerns for the players, coaches and parents as well a potential liability concern for ALB.

“They were afraid something would happen and that they’d get sued, and that’s why they canceled the season,” said George Richardson Sr., who has been coaching legion baseball in Carroll County since 1981 and is now an assistant for Sykesville.

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In a file photo from 2018, Sykesville Post 223 coach George Richardson works on pitch grips with Nathan Engle during a practice at Liberty High School.

Drewyer said he sent a long email to his players when the season was canceled. He said this is a difficult time for his players, with school, high school baseball and now summer baseball being significantly altered due to the virus, but that it’s important to keep things in perspective.

“These guys are at a really tender age, and they’re being hit with (a lot) right now,” said Drewyer, who was preparing to coach his 15th season for Post 60. “This is a gift, and it’s a weird way to look at it. It’s a gift because it challenges these guys to grow up a little faster than they would be otherwise, and that will allow them to recognize what truly matters. There are 18 and 19 year olds in the armed services. Losing your last season of American Legion baseball is really a puny thing compared to what really matters.”


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