Every amateur baseball team in the state faced the same level of uncertainty. Are we going to get the OK to start playing? Are we even going to have a season?
It all changed June 15 when the Litchfield City Council approved a sale on public property permit for Optimist Park — essentially opening the venue to games. Four days later, the Litchfield Blues played their first game of the season, a 2-1 loss to the Spring Hill Chargers.
That was followed by a game June 23 against the Shakopee Indians.
Shakopee took the lead early in the top of the first inning. Steve Boldt hit a ringing double to the right-centerfield gap to score Brandon Olson, Boldt later scored on a wild pitch to take a 2-0 lead. But the Blues answered right back in a strange fashion, they scored three runs on zero hits. Three walks and two Indian errors led to the Blues taking a 3-2 lead.
Shakopee came back to score three unanswered runs in the third and fourth innings for a 5-3 lead. The Blues cut it to one heading into the ninth, down 6-5. Joey Hyde was on second base with one out, when Indians shortstop Kyle Ryan committed a throwing error to allow Hyde to score and tie the game.
The teams agreed to play one inning of extras and no one scored a run to end the game in a tie. At this point however, the wins and losses do not matter. All that matters about these games right now is that baseball is being played, it’s back.
“When it was finally OK’d, I mean, the amount of excitement has stayed high this whole last month coming into games,” Blues manager John Anderson said. “It’s fun to see a full dugout — we’re doing our best to social distance — but to see almost 20 guys show up to be able to play an exhibition game against a good team like Shakopee and to be able to play 17 guys, it’s an exciting experience.”
With the season’s start in limbo, Anderson said, Blues players were practicing like the season was on the horizon. Even though games looked doubtful, players showed up to practice, hit the batting cage, worked on grounders and fly balls, and pitchers worked on the mound.
“The whole month leading up, it was difficult to continue to come up to my guys and say, ‘keep grinding because we might be playing in a week,’” Anderson said. “I don’t think a lot of them love to hear that. We got tired of practice after a while.”
But for the some veteran players, it was about staying focused.
“We were just locked into knowing that eventually, hopefully, we can have a season,” third baseman Dylan Koll said. “We were just staying focused.”
Owen Boerema, who is in his first season with the Blues, said staying physically sharp during the waiting period was key for him, so he had no problem attending practices.
“It’s just so fun to play,” said Boerema, who is attending University of Northwestern in St. Paul. “It’s so fun to be around the guys even if you’re just practicing. It’s fun to be out here against teams like Shakopee. We don’t usually play Shakopee. They had fun, we had fun, it was a good time.”
Now begins a more than month-long stretch of baseball for the Blues before league playoffs begin Aug. 1.
“We’re a little clouded by excitement right now,” Anderson said. “Just getting out here and seeing all the people, but soon we’ll be focused up and have a league schedule in front of us, and I’m very happy with what we’ve done so far the last two games.”
The Blues also played June 24, falling 4-1 to the Raymond Rockets.
Shakopee Indians 6, Litchfield Blues 6 (June 23)
Shakopee ... 201 200 100 0 — 6
Litchfield .... 300 010 101 0 — 6
Batting – M Spreiter 0-2, R, BB; D Kotzer 1-2; O Boerema 1-4, RBI, BB; J Jones 2-4, R, BB; B Smith 0-2, R, BB; J Ramthun 0-1, RBI; G Lecher 0-4, RBI; D Koll 1-2; B Alsleben 1-1; K Volinkaty 1-1; T Peterson 0-1; A Loch 0-5; Z Carlson 0-1, BB; B Wendlandt 0-1, BB; C Klabunde 0-3, BB; S Ridgeway 0-1; A Liestman 1-1, R; J Hyde 1-1, 2R, BB
Pitching – S Ridgeway 3IP-3H-3R-3ER-1BB-1K; A Liestman 2IP-3H-2R-1ER; J Hyde 2IP-3H-1R-1ER; K Volinkaty 1IP-2BB-1K; T Peterson 2IP-3BB-3K