Baseball fans rejoice – local games are back. Hibbard Field in Yreka was abuzz last Wednesday as players from the Siskiyou American Legion U19 and U17 teams faced off against each other in a scrimmage.
Coaches shouted out instructions as players threw, hit, or slid head-first into third base with joyous abandon.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all the player’s high school and college baseball seasons have been called off. It was not until recently that it was announced there would be an American Legion season.
“It’s nice to be out here and to be able to play for the kids,” said Siskiyous U19 head coach Mark Zeigler. “This gives them a chance to come back out and compete again. This all has been hard on them.”
A total of 33 players are on both teams this season, with the teams being able to practice for a little over two weeks before games are set to commence.
“We’ve had a really good turnout of players,” Zeigler said.
The U19 team opens the season this Friday at Hibbard Field with a 6 p.m. game against the Medford Mustangs.
Siskiyous will head to Medford, Ore. on Saturday for a doubleheader against the Mustangs starting at 10 a.m. at U.S. Cellular Field in Medford.
“It means everything to me,” said Siskiyous U19 player Leif Graves about the baseball season getting started. He will enter his senior year at Etna High School this fall. “I’m excited to have this opportunity. It’s great to be with a group of guys as passionate about baseball as I am.”
Graves said it was difficult to have his high school season called off and said it was up in the air if the American Legion season would happen. He said he and his teammates are just happy to be playing the game they love again.
Kekai Ferguson, who will be a senior at Mount Shasta High School this fall, said it's a “strange feeling” to be on the diamond again after being stuck at home for months on end. To be able to play baseball this summer is a blessing.
“It’s great to be playing with players from all over Siskiyou County,” he said. “It’s special to be back out here playing with my buddies again ... We just want to get out there and play. Instead of just being at home this is something fun I get to do this summer.”
Zeigler said it’s hard to say how many games they will get in this season and the situation is truly week-to-week scenario, with the potential for games to be added or called off at any time. It is still being determined when the U17 team will play its first game.
While the Siskiyous baseball teams are allowed to practice at Hibbard, the team can not practice at any field in Mount Shasta due to restrictions still in place. Normally, the team has practices and games in both Yreka and Mount Shasta.
The Siskiyous teams consist of players from throughout Siskiyou, including Yreka, Etna, Weed, Mount Shasta and Dunsmuir, as well as from Fall River High School in Shasta County.
Zeigler said they are doing thir best to be safe and taking precautions, although it can be tricky playing baseball without some contact. One option to reduce contact is having the umpire behind the pitching mound instead of behind the plate.
Zeigler said there is a lot of space around the field and in the stands, so fans should be able to keep a good distance apart without a problem.
Each year, the Siskiyous baseball team hosts a 50-inning game fundraiser that lasts all day and helps pay for travel expenses. Due to COVID-19 and difficulty in finding sponsors, the event was called off this year.
Zeigler said there is a great need for funds to help pay for the team’s expenses. Those interested in donating can contact Zeigler at email@example.com.