Iowa high schools can play ball this summer

The baseball diamond at North Iowa is lit up at night with the overhead lights.
The North Iowa baseball field sits empty during a “Light up Iowa” tribute in April. The ball fields won’t remain empty much longer, as summer sports are allowed to begin practices on June 1 and competitions on June 15.
Andrew Shaw

Schools and athletes in Iowa received some long-awaited good news last Wednesday, when Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced that high schools would be allowed to hold their baseball and softball programs this summer. The announcement follows two months of suspended school activities in the wake of COVID-19, which included the cancellation of the spring sports season.

The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and Iowa High School Athletic Association have announced that summer sports practices will begin on Monday, June 1, and the first contests may be held as early as Monday, June 15. Fans will be permitted to attend games.

North Iowa High School will participate in baseball and softball, according to Supt. Joe Erickson, but he says there are still a lot of details to be worked out. He says the Top of Iowa Conference schools will be working together to decide what the season will look like, and they’ll try to get in as many games as they can. North Iowa’s first games were originally scheduled for May 27. Erickson notes that some umpires have said they don’t plan to work this summer, so there could be difficulties in holding games if no umpires are available.

Schools participating in summer sports will need to follow guidelines from the Iowa Department of Education. Guidelines for practices beginning June 1 state that dugouts may not be used, parents should stay in their cars when dropping off or picking up players, players should use their own equipment as much as possible and bring their own water/beverages, and they are also encouraged to bring their own hand sanitizer.

Coaches will also be responsible for ensuring social distancing as much as possible, and they will need to sanitize shared equipment before and after each practice. Players and coaches should check their temperatures before attending practice, and anyone with symptoms of illness is not allowed to practice.

Guidelines in place for games beginning on June 15 allow teams to use the dugouts during games only. Schools must limit the use of bleachers for fans, and fans are encouraged to either bring their own chairs or to stand. Fans should practice social distancing between different household units and accept personal responsibility for public health guidelines. No concession stands are permitted, and fans must not attend games if they have symptoms of illness.

Schools are also asked to implement any other reasonable measures to ensure social distancing and increased hygiene practices at games.

“We trust that our administrators, coaches, umpires and fans will responsibly follow the guidelines in place to keep themselves and each other safe,” said IHSAA executive director Tom Keating.

“We know the games will have different circumstances and that we will all have to work together to keep everyone safe, but we are confident that we are up to this challenge,” said IGHSAU executive director Jean Berger.

The IGHSAU and IHSAA plan to issue further sport-specific guidance this week.

Both organizations currently plan to conduct their state tournaments at their previously announced venues, with IGHSAU softball at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge and IHSAA baseball at Principal Park in Des Moines.



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