Put me in, coach

American Legion Baseball is ready to play
By 
Ryan Peerboom — Enterprise Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
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Enterprise photos by Nate Howard

Livingston Braves teammates, including from left, Brayden Duncan, Zack Beal and Scott Tatum, throw a medicine ball while training Tuesday evening at Jack Weimer Memorial Park.

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A container of disinfectant wipes is kept among American Legion’s practice baseballs. 

 

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Enterprise photo by Nate Howard

Livingston Braves player River Smith practices hitting off the tee Tuesday at Jack Weimer Memorial Park.

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Coach Allen Sevareid

The crack of a baseball bat and the pop of a ball hitting a glove typically signal that spring is well underway and summer is fast approaching. 

This year, as the Livingston Braves took the field at Jack Weimer Memorial Park for practice, it signals the start of a slow journey back to normalcy.

Sports were the first thing to go when the COVID-19 pandemic started to spread in countries around the world. Starting with major professional sports, cancellations eventually trickled down to the high school level, ultimately nixing the spring sports season in many states, including Montana.

Now, after lifting the stay-at-home order in Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock’s phased reopening plan has allowed for the Braves to take the practice field for the first time last week.

“It’s really great to be out with the team and seeing a lot of faces,” senior first basemen Scott Tatum said. “Obviously with the quarantine you can’t hang out with a ton of people.”

The Montana American Legion gave teams the go-ahead to start practicing on April 27, but they had to get clearance from county health officials before starting practice, according to Braves Board Chairman Scott Wolf.

Since Montana Legion baseball teams play in their own stadiums and are not directly affiliated with high schools, it’s given teams in the state an opportunity to be some of the first to start playing sports again, Wolf said.

The Braves worked with the Park County Health Department to develop a safe plan for starting practice.

“We maintain a 6-feet policy at all times so that obviously made it pretty easy (to follow guidelines), but it was hard to not go up and hug all my friends,” Tatum said. “It was a bummer.”

The Braves also split into small groups while practicing and players sanitize their hands when they enter and exit the field, Wolf said. Pitchers are provided with a wet sponge to avoid licking their hands to get a better grip on the ball, he added.

Wolf said the players have responded to the changes positively.

“I think the boys did a really good job and were mature about (the situation),” he said. 

Head coach Allen Sevareid is in his first year coaching the Braves. Sevareid, who teaches in Townsend, said the guidelines add an additional challenge while implementing his new system.

 “We had to switch up everything just to be able to coach these guys, because you can’t keep 19 kids in a group — you have to have groups of 10,” Sevareid said. 

After 16 players showed up to the first practice Thursday, the Braves have added three more to bring their total to 19. Their numbers are boosted by the addition of players from Babe Ruth who are joining the Braves because their season has been canceled. 

Although they are back to practice, games are not guaranteed for the Braves. The Braves have to wait until phase two of Gov. Bullock’s reopening plan is underway, according to Wolf. 

Wolf said they aren’t positive what games will look like when they start or how many fans will be able to attend, but they will provide an opportunity for them to watch.

“When we do open up, we’re going to be streaming games,” he said. 

With no exact date set for phase two, the future remains uncertain. However, the players are happy to be playing their sport in any capacity.

 “I think we’re all just thankful that we can get out and do the sport that we love every day,” Tatum said.

“Definitely good to get out of the house and just kind of get back to your normal routine,” Braves senior Rob Wolf said. “It’s nice just to get to see your friends and just to be out again and get exercise in.”

Sevareid believes he can keep the players interested and keep things fresh while facing a prolonged practice period without any game. 

“I think we can really keep these guys’ heads in it and I hope it stays fun for them,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying for.”

Sevareid joins the Braves after a break from coaching while his kids were in school. Now that they’ve moved out of the house, he needed something to do with his time. 

“My wife and I decided, since we’re empty nesters now, I can start getting out there and getting involved again,” he said. 

He’s joined by assistant coaches Cody Wood and Alex Walker.

“I’m very happy I have the two coaches I do and we have a great board,” Sevareid said. “They’re very easy to work with.”

Sevareid said he hopes that high turnout numbers and senior leadership can help build the program into a winner.

“We’re going to try to make this a really good situation,” he said. “I want to get the numbers, I want to build the program. We’ve got several seniors that we’re hoping (can) groom some of the younger players coming in.”

Team morale will be a large part in building a strong team, he added. 

“It takes a lot to keep the cohesion of a team,” Sevareid said. “I’m in the idea that I want to be super positive with these guys, keep their morale up as best as I can and hopefully they’ll perform.”

When the time comes to play, Sevareid said they’re ready for the opportunity. 

“I just hope we get to some games here and show them what we can do,” he said.