Town Ball main

Members of the Mankato Twins watch from their dugout in a playoff game last season. The Twins’ season is on hold due to COVID-19.

The Minnesota baseball scene has many layers and levels.

A lot has been made of the cancelations and postponements in professional, college, high school and youth baseball ... but what about the state’s most unique rung on the baseball ladder? What about town ball?

With 272 teams across the state, Minnesota is the nation’s hub for amateur baseball. However, with COVID-19 spreading, the amateur season is on hold just like the rest of the sports world.

And just as with other leagues and governing bodies, the Minnesota Baseball Association is still hoping to have some type of season.

“We realize there’s going to have to be changes made,” MBA President and Mankato resident Fred Roufs said. “That’s just the new world we live in.”

The MBA is considering many of the same changes as various youth organizations, including extended benches, no more sharing of equipment and social distancing of fans. When it comes to keeping fans apart, Roufs is very confident it can be done.

“We usually get between 25-100 people at games. We’re putting those into stadiums that could hold 250-1,000,” Roufs said. “We think we can social distance very easily in the majority of our ballparks. I think people will segregate themselves.”

When it comes to the games missed in May, those shouldn’t be a major issue. Many amateur baseball teams do a home-and-away, two-game series with each team in their respective league, and those can easily be turned into doubleheaders.

The big issue that’s looming will be the annual state tournament, which is set to take place in New Ulm and Springfield during the last two weeks in August. That event would bring 64 teams to those towns and is the highlight of the town-ball season.

It’s also a major expense, as the field in New Ulm has received about $2 million in upgrades for the tournament, while Springfield has gotten $600,000 according to Roufs.

“They’ve been working on preparations for the state tournament for four or five years, so they’re pretty anxious to go,” Roufs said.

For the Mankato Twins, who are part of the Minnesota Senior Men’s Amateur Baseball Association, this was supposed to be a big season. In only their first year as an 35-and-older team last season, the Twins made an incredible playoff run, eventually losing in the state championship.

With many of the same players back, along with a few new additions, the Twins were set to make another run. Manager Kris Brenke has already had to cancel three games in May, but he still has hopes to get on the field.

“For the most part, people seem like they’re itching to get out there and play,” Brenke said. “We’ve got some good players. We’re looking a little better this year.”

As far as a potential timeline for a return, Roufs doesn’t know for sure. Various leagues are planning for different scenarios, including start dates in June and July. However, he said South Dakota played its first town ball game of the season last weekend as a trial run, and that it apparently went well from a social distancing standpoint.

“The most important thing is that we need to make sure people keep their social distance, and that they stay safe,” Roufs said.

“We’re open to any suggestions the governor has. If he says ‘here’s the restrictions we have,’ we’ll figure out a way to make baseball work.”

Follow Kevin Dudley on Twitter @Dudley7Kevin.

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