Local sports return: Bennington baseball team preparing for league action
BENNINGTON — The 'pop' of a baseball meeting a leather glove could be heard Wednesday afternoon on Park Street, signifying the return of local sports to the region after more than a three-month hiatus.
The first organized practice for the town of Bennington baseball team took place at Bennington Baseball Park.
The Vermont American Legion baseball season was officially canceled due to the coronavirus on April 16. Legion baseball was canceled nationwide on May 11.
Bennington Post 13 will not be playing this summer. Instead, the Bennington team will compete in the Vermont Summer Baseball League (VSBL), a 13-team league that will play baseball games throughout the month of July.
VSBL is hoping to begin playing league games starting July 1. The league features seven southern Vermont teams and six in the northern part of the state. Manchester, which normally does not have a legion team, will be participating in the VSBL.
Bennington's team will look a lot different than the team coach Bill Hay thought he was going to have before coronavirus canceled the legion season. Hay, who was set to begin his first season as Post 13's skipper, said half of his players are from Massachusetts, including some who played for Pittsfield Post 68 last season. Some Manchester area players typically play for Post 13, too. Since Manchester will be competing in the VSBL, Bennington's roster looks different than first anticipated.
That doesn't matter to the teams head coach, though. Hay is just excited to be back on the diamond.
"It feels good," Hay said. "Everybody's been waiting for it to open up enough to be able to get out here."
The coach believes that getting to play some organized baseball will benefit his players, especially those who lost their senior baseball season.
"I think it means a lot to them," Hay said. "Especially the kids coming up from Mass. They were all seniors this past year, they lost their senior year. So for them to be able to play some games together this summer, it probably means a lot to them."
Hay said that his roster has shrunk by four or five players over the past few weeks. A few of his potential players decided to focus on other aspects of their life, such as getting a job after graduation or preparing for college, instead of playing a condensed baseball schedule this summer.
In terms of safety, there is no shared equipment. Each player brings their own equipment. According to Hay, the league is putting together a game protocol for all teams and fans.
The VSBL will follow the safety guidelines put out by the state.
Bennington is scheduled to play 17 games this summer. Hay said he would call the season a success if they're able to play every one of those games.
"Who knows, we could get started and two weeks from now the governor may come out and say 'no more, no more activities like this,'" Hay said. "Just getting out here and playing will be a success."
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