DES MOINES, Iowa — It’s been 94 days since the last high school sporting event was held, 281 days since baseball has been played inside Principal Park, and 317 days since we had high school baseball or softball. Monday the drought ends. In Iowa, we finally get to say, “play ball!”
Iowa will be the first state in the country to play a high school game with its summer baseball and softball programs back in action. All eyes are on the state to see how sports will work post COVID-19.
“It’s a lot of responsibility, not only for us but for some of the other surrounding states and if they might be dealing with similar things. [Also] knowing that the national federation is monitoring how this goes and how some of their guidelines that they put out last month are actually being put into practice within a few weeks. I think a lot of states and schools who are concerned, asking ‘how does this work for football?’ Well we have a sport, and a state, and it is baseball and softball in Iowa that is going to be the test case for all of this and to see how it works in reality,” Iowa High School Athletic Association Communications Director, Chris Cuellar said.
There will be over 250 baseball teams and 260 softball teams playing across the state on Monday. The first pitch thrown will be at Principal Park for a 1 p.m. baseball game between Colfax-Mingo and Tri County. Twenty regular-season games will be held there throughout the summer before the ballpark hosts the state tournament.
Like all diamonds across the state, Principal Park is implementing new safety measures. It incudes things like no cash payments, installing vending machines to limit face-to-face interactions, and of course social distancing seats. They’ve zip-tied many of them to spread people out. The over 11,000 seat ballpark now has less than 2,000 seats available to sit in.
Iowa Cubs President and General Manager, Sam Bernabe, said it’s a big undertaking getting everything ready for game day, but just waiting for the status of the minor league baseball season wasn’t the answer either. They wanted to get a heart-beat back into the ballpark.
“High school games, college games, certainly aren’t what Iowa Cubs games are when it comes to business and dealing with a stadium that has 10,000 seats in it. So you have to kind of determine is it going to be viable to take some of this stuff on in lieu of the cost of opening the building, in lieu of the revenue that may come back in. It wasn’t just a no brainer. We had to really make some calculated decisions and we wanted to get going. That was probably the overriding factor in our decision making,” Bernabe said.
Games between Ankeny Centennial and Des Moines Roosevelt will also be held at Principal Park Monday. WHO 13 Sports will be live there throughout the day.