By Ray Hamill — After two months of suspended sports and two days of rainouts, baseball finally returned to the North Coast on Wednesday evening.
A total of 50 players showed up for the Humboldt Eagles American Legion tryouts at the Redwood Fields in Cutten, and according to coach Matt Tomlin it was a safe and productive return.
“We had 50 kids show up, and it just shows how many parents want their kids playing ball,” Tomlin said. “Practice went really well tonight.”
The coach says all safety and health regulations were followed closely, including the use of hand sanitizer, with a doctor and nurse — both members of the Eagles board — on hand to ensure everything was handled in the correct fashion.
“All the kids had masks on when they showed up, and they weren’t allowed through the gates without one,” Tomlin said.
The players were divided into groups of six for workouts, and within those groups all players remained six feet apart throughout.
“Baseball is one game where you can really social distance and still get things done in practice situations,” Tomlin said.
The Eagles will hold a second tryout practice on Thursday evening, before taking four days off for Memorial Weekend and returning for two more days of tryouts on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Not everyone in the county believes the Eagles should be back practicing just yet, but Tomlin defended the decision, which was made by the club board a week ago.
“The thing I want to stress is that while people are upset, none of our adults are gaining anything from this,” the long-time local coach said. “We’re out there for the kids. We’re just trying to help the kids.”
The club will field three teams, a 19U, 17U and 16U, with rosters expected to be finalized by the end of next week.
Tomlin, who will coach the 19U team, is also hoping to hold an intra-squad game as early as the weekend of May 30/31.
“That matchup is going to be amazing,” he said. “The talent we have on the field is unbelievable.”
The intra-squad game, which would be played behind closed doors and without fans, will likely feature a pair of future Pac-12 pitchers, Arcata’s Merek Sears and St. Bernard’s Nick Dugan.
Sears, a senior, has committed to play at Washington State after graduation, while Dugan, a sophomore, has verbally committed to play at Stanford when he graduates.
The Eagles tryouts were scheduled to begin on Monday, but were put back to Wednesday after this week’s rain.
The county’s two other American Legion baseball programs, the Northern Humboldt Giants and Southern Humboldt 76ers, have not yet scheduled a date to return and both say they will reevaluate the situation in early June.