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Summer baseball closer to reality

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY —  Hopes for summer baseball have been upgraded in the past few days.

From unsatisfactory condition to resting comfortably.

Coaches say it’s now a matter of “when” rather than a matter of “if.”

Rowan County is part of the NC3 American League Baseball League that aspires to fill the Legion void this summer. The Legion season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lexington-Davidson has announced plans to play ball on June 19. Head coach Jim Gantt expects a June 20 start date for Rowan.

“The scheduling is all worked out,” Gantt said. “The insurance is filed. We’ve got some rules, We’ve got 33 games scheduled, a lot of baseball.”

That ambitious 33-game schedule includes a series of non-league games in late June. Gantt doesn’t anticipate any league games for Rowan prior to July 3 or 4. The season would run into August.

But there are still assorted hoops to jump through before a Rowan pitcher steps on the mound at Newman Park.

Some teams in the league have a high school home field. Those fields won’t be available before June 15 —  at the earliest.

Rowan plays at Catawba College’s Newman Park, and is still hammering out all the details of a new arrangement. There’s a need for a new one, with no Legion sanction or involvement.

“You can’t just start playing,” Gantt said. “No more than you could just hold the Christmas tournament. There’s not a hold-up with Newman Park, but it is a process. We’ve got a facility on a private college campus, so it’s not like we’re dependent on a high school field, but there still are steps we have to follow. We’re following the steps.”

Gantt is also Catawba’s coach, so he’s got to comply with a myriad of NCAA rules. It can get complicated.

Gantt took advantage of the unusual summer lull to get in a beach trip. So did many players, athletes who are gearing up now for a lot of baseball in a short time.

North Carolina is currently in Phase 2 of a hopeful return to normalcy from coronavirus restrictions. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people until Phase 3, which is set to begin June 26. That’s another wrinkle for those early games on the schedule.

“A lot of people have been stopping by Newman Park just to check, wondering about buying tickets,” Gantt said. “That’s a bridge we’ll cross later.”

But it does appear that Rowan is going to get there. Baseball should be just a matter of weeks away.

“We can’t practice yet and we’ll need some time to get everyone in shape,” Gantt said. “But we’re still moving forward. I don’t think we’ve ever stopped moving forward. We’ve got some things to work out, but we’ll have baseball this summer.”

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