The diamonds of Blue Lake Sports Park will be full of runs, catches and strike outs once again this weekend when a new summer of baseball is launched.
The Mount Gambier and District Baseball League would have hoped to fly through the season without any disruptions, but a coronavirus curve ball arrived at the worst possible moment last week.
Confusion and misinformation over COVID-19 restrictions caused last weekend’s opening round to be wiped out.
Initially SA police commissioner Grant Stevens said all sport will be cancelled after a positive case in the Blue Lake City which left the MGDBL with no option, but to pull the pin.
However, the South Australia Police Updated Activities Associated Direction outlined restrictions only prevented crowds from attending venues, so sport could still go ahead.
But it was too late for the MGDBL and new president Phil Clark said it was a frustrating start to the summer.
“It started from getting messages from the government and police saying we could not play or go to training,” he said.
“We followed SA Health and then the health directions changed again and said we could carry on.
“But by then everyone had already cancelled everything from the umpires to the food and beverage orders and it was going to be too hard for everyone.
“We thought we would bite the bullet and stick with the decision to save a whole lot of running around, headaches and chasing volunteers.”
But with sport and crowds back, Clark confirmed all is in readiness for another big hitting season.
“We were disappointed to cancel the first round, but it is what it is and you have to deal with each week as it comes,” he said.
“It will be great to get back out there after we have all been hibernating.”
Cancelling games and battling the ever-changing COVID-19 environment was not how Clark would have hoped to open his term leading the MGDBA.
The 2021-22 season is his first at the helm after taking over the president’s role from Michael Summers during the winter.
The unexpected COVID-19 restrictions threw Clark in the deep end straight away, but he said he had strong support to call the shots.
“The entire committee have made things real easy for me this year,” he said.
“I have had to do a couple jobs, but so far it has not been super stressful because the season has not got under way yet for the other issues to pop up.”
Centrals is the team everyone is looking to catch after it strolled to the 2020-21 Sid Hosking premiership earlier this year with two resounding wins over South Indians.
The Magpies will carry great confidence in continuing their 90th anniversary celebrations with big names such as Dylan Chuck, Ethan Chuck, Alex Ridding and Koby Chant all expected to feature prominently.
But the likes of South, Tigers and Millicent will be determined to spoil the party.
Led by Bruce Morale, Damien O’Dine and Dean Hamilton, South Indians loom as the number-one challenger keen to get revenge.
Tigers can never be discounted having wrapped up the 2019 flag with stars such as Brayden Morton and Tyler Horrigan.
The Bandits could be a wildcard looking to build on the momentum generated from their first season in the big league and will turn to Darcy Pink for inspiration.
Clark said he is pleased with how participation numbers are tracking across the grades.
“The numbers are looking good,” he said.
“Players are still interested in the sport and we have an extra team in Division 2 which will boost a lot of moral.”
Sadly only four teams are in the fight for the Sid Hosking Division 1 premiership.
Federal was not in position to field a team in the top grade for the first time in its history due to injury and unavailability.
Clark said it will be sad not seeing the red and green team mix it with the best, but said the affected players will remain on the diamond.
“We have lost Federal due to numbers, but most of the players have joined other clubs to keep playing,” he said.
“This year a lot of players have moved out of town or are injury, so they just cannot play this season.”
After the disappointment of last weekend, Clark said the baseball fraternity is eager to get back on home plate and launch into a season which will also include extra development for the juniors.
“We are ready to go and everyone is still keen to play and excited,” he said.
“We will have some doubleheaders and byes throughout the season.
“We are also going to do a bit of junior development training led by Tracy McAdams to get them ready before the April carnival comes along.”
The season begins under lights tomorrow night with more games to follow at Blue Lake Sports Park all day Saturday.