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CIML makes its summer pitch

Rules for attending Marshalltown’s baseball and softball games get overhaul

T-R FILE PHOTO - Marshalltown’s Avery Mull pitches against Waterloo West during a regional softball game July 5, 2018, in Waterloo.

The recommission of summer sports across Iowa has put high school athletic directors and their coaches in a precarious position in light of the coronavirus pandemic: open up the gates, but not too wide as to increase the potential for community spread.

Marshalltown High School athletic director Ryan Isgrig, who is nearing the completion of his first year at his post, said the trials and tribulations he and his staff must endure to ensure the Bobcat baseball and softball teams have the opportunity to compete this summer are worth it.

“We’ve talked about it at parent meetings and amongst our coaches and kids, that in order for this to work everyone’s got to do their part and that means the fans doing their part to social distance and keep safe,” Isgrig said of the new-look regulations for attending games this summer. “The more people comply to this, the better off we’re going to be in the future.

“I’m confident. The kids and coaches are doing a tremendous job to ensure that’s going to happen and I appreciate our coaches’ leadership and parents complying with this. I know it’s not an ideal situation.”

On Thursday, the Central Iowa Metropolitan League released its procedures for spectator admission to games, which for Marshalltown begins on June 15 with varsity doubleheaders at home against Ankeny.

The primary points of the CIML’s memorandum are:

• Roster limits (players and coaches) at all levels are set at 28.

• Schools will distribute two tickets per player in uniform and two per coach at each level to be used at that level throughout the season. This ticket will allow the ticket holder to pay admission or use a school-specific pass to gain entrance for the contest. The ticket only allows an individual to purchase admission and has no cash value, and may only be used at the venue and event listed.

• This ticket will ensure that the individual may purchase admission up until the conclusion of the first game of a doubleheader at the same level. In events featuring a doubleheader at the same level (varsity baseball, varsity softball, 10th baseball, 9th baseball and 9th softball), individual schools may allow additional persons to pay admission if space allows after the conclusion of the first game at their discretion.

• In combined events (JV/varsity), the venue will be emptied after the first game. Individuals holding a ticket to pay for admission for both contests will only be required to pay one time.

• Individual schools are responsible for communicating their seating availability and social distancing plan for each venue. At all venues, individual family household units (two people) are encouraged to sit together to help with overall capacity. Fans are encouraged to bring their own chairs in the vent the bleachers meet capacity.

• Ticket gates will open 30 minutes prior to the start of the contest.

• Admission for all regular season contests is as follows: varsity baseball/softball $5; JV baseball/softball when combined with varsity $5; lower level contests (9th, 10th, JV when not with varsity) $4. Exact change is appreciated at all locations.

• Concessions will not be offered at venues with the exception of Harlan Rogers Park (Fort Dodge softball). Coolers will be allowed to be brought in for individual use except at Harlan Rogers Park and are subject to inspection.

• Individual schools may require additional measures to be taken and those will be posted and communicated in advance. Spectators attending games at Des Moines Public Schools venues (East, Hoover, North, Lincoln and Roosevelt) are required to wear a mask unless underlying health issues make it unsafe for the individual.

• The CIML will continue to monitor, update and communicate our information and procedures to keep everyone as safe as possible.

Despite the varying numbers of positive COVID-19 cases in each community and the various venues acround the CIML, the conference’s athletic directors supported a singular set of regulations to remain consistent across the board. The continuity across the CIML will make it easier for those fans who will be permitted to attend games to know the rules ahead of time when they follow the Bobcats on the road.

“We really wanted to be consistent as a conference, but at the same time every school is different,” Isgrig said. “We have a lot of room at our facility where we were hoping we could let some more fans in, but we wanted to be consistent as a conference.

“It’s definitely not our intention or our hope to have to not let people in. I know personally and everyone probably feels the same, that they play a little better when they have more people there supporting them. It’s not what we really wanted or hoped to do but more of a safety precaution we’re putting in and there’s a stipulation in there if for Game 2 we feel we can let more people in, we will.”

Eleven of Marshalltown baseball and softball’s 13 scheduled events are doubleheaders. Per the CIML mandate, host sites will be allowed to permit more fans for the second game once it has been determined there is enough space around the ballpark to meet all social distancing guidelines.

In the events where junior varsity games precede the varsity contests, only those fans — most likely parents of student-athletes — with the aforementioned tickets will be granted the opportunity to pay admission to attend the varsity game.

Marshalltown, however, encounters a unique situation in that entry to the athletic complex is gained through a single ticket window that accounts for both baseball and softball admission.

“When people pay at our facility we hope they support both our baseball and softball programs and we hope that’s still the case with the people that are going to get in,” Isgrig said. “We feel good about it. Based off a 28-kid roster, some of the CIML schools won’t have that many in their dugout. We won’t have that many kids per roster, so we anticipate our families having extra tickets at their expense to maybe allow 2-to-3 tickets per kid.

“We’re going to leave it up to the coaches to distribute the extras. We’ll work it out best we can and hopefully in Game 2 we’ll be able to have a little bit more room than some of the other CIML facilities.”

The Marshalltown baseball diamond, which used to host at least half if not all of the state baseball tournament, has ample bleacher seating as well as room along the fences. The wind screens lining the outfield fences will be taken down to allow fans the opportunity to space out comfortably to comply with social distancing rules.

Beyond the fences lining the perimeter of the MHS athletic complex there exists room along E. Olive St. for fans to set up their lawn chairs as well, should they be unable to acquire tickets that allow them to purchase admission into the venue.

“We’re working on measuring out our seats to our capacity,” Isgrig said. “They’ll be finalized by this weekend of what that will look like, so in Game 2 if we feel we can fit more people safely in our capacity, we’ll allow more people in. We’re just trying to maybe change some things up a little so we can create a positive fan experience.”

The same goes for the student-athletes, who are the reason the high school administrators across the state are covering new ground to get games on their diamonds and fans — responsibly spaced — in the stands.

“We’re trying to take extra precautions as a school, requiring kids to wear masks in confined spaces and dugouts, it’s something we’re taking very seriously,” Isgrig said. “Coaches have done a great job sanitizing equipment and the buildings and grounds are making sure facilities are clean and sanitized.”

All Marshalltown student-athletes participating are required to sign waivers clearing the school of liability in the event of injury or illness, and fans are asked to use common sense and to stay home if they are not feeling well to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus.

Isgrig said Marshalltown’s baseball and softball teams have not had any health issues to this point.

Two Iowa high schools — Eagle Grove and Belmond-Klemme — have both already voted down playing summer sports due to the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 in Wright County. Per the Iowa Department of Education, student-athletes from those districts, as well as those from Meskwaki Settlement School which typically does not participate in baseball or softball, have been granted the chance to play at another school for the summer if that school will have them.

Even though the Meskwaki Settlement School is under the supervision of the United States Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education and not the Iowa Department of Education, it was included in this order as an associate member of the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.

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