Although American Legion Baseball cancelled its summer tournament due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, local legion clubs in Rhode Island will be suiting up for their own competition, as teams and league directors established a new,
Although American Legion Baseball cancelled its summer tournament due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, local legion clubs in Rhode Island will be suiting up for their own competition, as teams and league directors established a new, one-year league this summer.
The league is called the RI 19-20 Elite Baseball League. The number 19 is for COVID-19, and 20 for the year. This league is brand new and totally unaffiliated with American Legion.
Eight of the usual 10 Rhode Island Legion teams will be hitting the diamond, as well as eight junior teams. Two of those team’s include Warwick’s New England Frozen Lemonade/Shields Post 43 and Cranston’s Gershkoff Auto. The schedule is set to kick off on Monday, July 6 in accordance with Governor Gina Raimondo’s Phase 3 stage of the state’s reopening. The regular season will be followed up by an eight-team playoff, with a single elimination format in the first two rounds and a three-game series in the championship. The league looks to complete the season by August 16, as the Rhode Island Interscholastic League fall practices begin on the 17th. Teams will also not be participating in out-of-state games.
Teams will be using their normal legion fields and will also be abiding by the restrictions set regarding the pandemic.
“It’s a weird situation, but we’re excited for the kids that are coming out, for those high school kids that couldn’t play high school, college kids that couldn’t play college, so basically we just wanted to make sure we gave them an opportunity to do something. We wanted to give them a chance to play, it wasn’t looking good for a while, but we were always planning on doing something,” said Dave Schiappa, who manages Gershkoff Auto and is a longtime committee member of RI American Legion.
The creation of this new league was a smooth one overall, according to Schiappa, who also stressed the importance of following state safety guidelines to managers.
“It was pretty smooth, we got everyone together that was in. We then talked to everyone about the guidelines and how to follow them, we will be following all of the standard COVID guidelines. Coaches wearing masks, no kids in the dugout. It’s good,” Schiappa said.
As this new league gets set to join some other local leagues in getting back to work, Schiappa and company are excited to give the kids something to be happy about this summer.
“The bottom line is, it’s good to be able to give these kids something, it’s good to be able to get them some playing time,” said Schiappa. “They are all excited to play. We were wanting to make something happen and that’s why we spearheaded this as much as we could.”