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Maine’s summer sports season has taken another hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The American Legion National Organization has canceled its 2020 baseball season for teenage players across the country.
American Legion officials went a step further than the Little League organization, which also cited COVID-19 concerns in canceling its regional tournaments and World Series for various age groups.
The Mid Coast Babe Ruth League also on Monday announced its decision to cancel the 2020 season. It cited limited gatherings of people, social distancing concerns and field availability as key issues.
League president Don Shields said the Mid Coast Babe Ruth League, the oldest active Babe Ruth league in Maine, plans to resume play in May 2021.
Local Little League organizations in Maine are still grappling with the challenge of trying to provide a baseball experience for youngsters this season under the state’s health restrictions.
David Gray, the Maine state American Legion baseball commissioner, said it is disappointing to have the season canceled but he agrees with the decision.
“It is very regrettable that we couldn’t do this for our young people because we love baseball and it is a great program,” Gray said.
“But, obviously, our number one priority as an organization is player and spectator safety.” “What it boils down to is looking at the daily Maine CDC [Center for Disease Control and Prevention] reports and the [number of cases] have been going up on a regular basis.”
Gray said Maine’s American Legion executive committee had previously voted to cancel the season due to the pandemic but the American Legion baseball committee was in the process of putting a proposal together to have the board reconsider.
Then the edict came down from the American Legion’s national headquarters to cancel the season.
Despite a decline in participation in recent years, the tradition-laden American Legion baseball program has been a fixture on the state’s summer sports scene for decades.
Maine fielded 16 Senior Legion teams last year. They played in two, eight-team divisions. However, there were 21 Junior Legion teams in action in 2019, including 15 based north of Augusta.
Gray said there were going to be 16 to 18 Senior Legion teams this season and a state-record 26 Junior Legion teams. The Junior Legion state tourney was going to be also held at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
Maine’s all-time high of 48 Senior Legion teams came in 2007.
The Senior Legion season normally begins in mid-June and runs through late July before the Maine champion advances to the Northeast Regional tournament.
Senior Legion, for older and more experienced players, was this year to have included players who were born no earlier than 2000, up to age 19. Junior Legion targets players who are at least 13 born before 2008.
Gray is optimistic that American Legion baseball will make a comeback.
“With the growth of Junior Legion, that is going to [carry] over to Senior Legion,” predicted Gray. “We have a lot of great coaches at the Senior Legion level.
“It will bounce back and become another strong entity again. But it may take a couple of years,” Gray said.
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