By JEFF HELMINIAK
There will be high school baseball this summer.
Only it will have nothing to do with American Legion, and the team won’t be called the Twins.
“I think we’ll go by the Alaska 20,” said Lance Coz, who will serve as the general manager of the team.
In April, American Legion canceled its national playoffs due to the threat of the new coronavirus. In the first week of May, American Legion also canceled any in-state options for teams.
In stepped the Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball, a nonprofit organization not tied to American Legion in any official way.
The Alliance will organize a baseball season for players ages 13 to 19 that resembles the normal Legion season, but season can have no connection to American Legion.
“We can use our hat, but we can’t use our jerseys because of the American Legion patch,” Coz said. “A T-shirt jersey will be thrown together.”
Coz said that in a Tuesday night phone call seven of the eight Anchorage schools, two Fairbanks teams, North Pole, Palmer and Wasilla all indicated they would play. Southeast schools indicated they would like to participate on a limited basis, while Kodiak will not be in the league.
At that time, Coz was not sure he could get the players for a team, so he had through Friday to decide whether the Alaska 20 would play.
With 13 players signed up, about half of whom are from Homer, Coz decided to give it a go. This would have been the 45th season for Coz with the Twins, and the 49th overall for the program, but this season will not officially count toward those numbers.
Coz said Kodiak players could suit up for the Twins, just like they did for 30 years until Kodiak got its own program in 2014. The big hurdle would be figuring out housing for those players.
The Peninsula Oilers of the Alaska Baseball League, a summer collegiate league, have already announced they are not doing a season. Coz said that without the help of the Oilers, the Twins will not be able to get Coral Seymour Memorial Park ready for play.
Coz said the plan is to use the Kenai Little League fields, plus maybe the Soldotna Little League complex and even a field in Homer.
One of the biggest hurdles the Alaska 20 faced was travel, because players from different households will have to travel in vans. Coz said the Alliance put him in contact with state government. He was told that even though social distancing is recommended, it is not mandatory, and it is recommended the traveling group wear face masks.
Coz said the Alliance is coming up with protocols for practices and games.
“It’s going to be a very big challenge for on-field coaches,” said Coz, who once again has Robb Quelland as his head coach.
The season will mean a lot of long days for the Twins, because they will do single-day trips to Anchorage for doubleheaders. Coz said the logistics of figuring out how to stay a night in Anchorage were too expensive and complicated.
“With the economic conditions in the state, I felt it wasn’t appropriate to fundraise, so we’ll figure out some way to squeeze by,” Coz said.
At this point, Coz said he can’t see a Bill Miller Big Fish Wood Bat Tournament taking place this year.
Coz said that from what he understands from the Tuesday phone call, the season will be 30 games per team, with 10 league games. Those games will determine which teams make the state tournament. Those that don’t will play in the Matson Tournament.
Coz said he doesn’t know when the season will start. He said there is much to figure out before the first pitch is thrown.
“My excitement is for the players who have hopes of playing at the next level,” Coz said. “They didn’t lose an entire summer of baseball. That was my priority.”