GREAT FALLS — Crowd chatter. The smell of hotdogs. Warm summer nights. Yankee Stadium. What’s better than that? Perhaps only the fact that Little League Baseball is BACK in Montana.
“Oh, super excited,” said Riverside Little League President Zac Griffin with a smile. “This has been a long go to try and get this going for the kids, and we’re excited to have baseball back in our community starting tonight.”
While there may not be a Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania this year (the annual tournament was canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic), little leaguers in the Treasure State are determined not to let that disrupt their summer obsession with America’s favorite pastime.
There will be some carryover effect from that decision here in Montana, but not much. Zac explained that there are a few teams every year that play in all-star tournaments that would usually take place only a few weeks from now. While those won’t be happening this year, Zac and the rest of the league is just happy to be able to hit the diamond this summer.
There will, of course, be some sanitary requirements for each team and each game. Working in partnership with the Cascade City-County Health Department and Alluvion Health, the league agreed on social distancing whenever possible, extra hand sanitizing stations, and several additional safety protocols to keep players, coaches and their families healthy.
The league may be back, but Griffin said there was uncertainty about this season’s status even as recent as earlier this month.
“Oh yeah, like two weeks ago,” he said, when asked if there were times that he had doubted the likelihood that the season would come together. “We’ve been pushing pretty hard and we submitted the plan to Cascade County Health and they approved it so we made it mission go and I worked with the other two leagues in town and got some players to come over and play so everybody is underneath they Riverside vail this year just to play baseball.”
While there won’t be any postseason tournaments this year, each team will get to play 14 games, which Griffin says is not too far off from a normal season. Other than that, there won’t be any tee ball or leagues for older kids, and the other two little leagues in town are operating under the Riverside umbrella this summer, but everyone out on the field and in the stands agrees: they’re just happy to be able to play this season.