MANCHESTER — With the cancellation of the Vermont American Legion baseball season on April 16, it seemed like the coronavirus had wiped out any chance of baseball throughout the region this summer.
Instead an independent league, the Vermont Summer Baseball League (VSBL), has risen in its place and will bring the summer pastime to ball fields all throughout the state.
There are 13 teams participating in the VSBL. Manchester is the only squad in the league that is not normally associated with a legion team.
Games begin July 1, including a match up between Manchester and Bennington at 5:30 p.m. at Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park in Manchester.
Manchester's VSBL team coach, Darrin Senecal, said that they were able to join the league after Randolph, who typically competes in Vermont American Legion as Post 9, decided not to compete in the independent league this summer.
Once Manchester got the green light, it was an easy decision for Senecal.
The Manchester coach is excited for the VSBL, especially after coronavirus canceled spring high school sports throughout the country.
"It gives everybody a chance (to play baseball this summer)," Senecal said. "It gives the six BBA seniors one more shot as playing as a team together."
Senecal coached this age group of players, including his son Ethan, from 2007 until they reached the high school level in 2016. He said the team will have players aging from 14-18 years old on the roster.
There will be plenty of health regulations put in place to make sure everyone participating is staying safe. Senecal said he handed out a mask and hand sanitizer to every player during their first practice. He also said he is checking temperatures before every practice and will do that before every game.
"It's just part of life now," Senecal said. "I'm walking around with a 50-pound bag of sanatizing wipes with me constantly."
The traditional dugout will look a lot different, too. Every player will have their own lawn chair, spaced six feet apart so everyone is practicing social distancing while not on the field. The coach said that players will not have to wear masks while on the field, as that creates other safety concerns while playing in the heat.
A successful VSBL season in Senecal's eyes is simple.
"Just stay safe," Senecal said. "I think that's absolutely the most important part."
Senecal said he hopes the momentum gained from the VSBL this year allows Manchester players to play on a local legion team in the years to come. In years past, players from the Manchester area have typically played for either Bennington Post 13 or Rutland Post 31. There is not an American Legion post in Manchester. The closest post to Manchester without a current legion baseball team is located in Arlington.
Senecal said his players are excited for the opportunity to play baseball this summer.
"They're just so happy to be back," Senecal said.