Fruitland plans summer league baseball to start at end of June

Fruitland’s Knuck Flannery (18) catches a pop fly during a game on May 8, 2019.

FRUITLAND – The dog days of summer are coming in hot, and there’s officially a plan in place to get student athletes back on the field by the end of the summer. On Monday morning, Fruitland’s baseball team officially unveiled its scheduled for summer baseball that will include several Treasure Valley teams. 

One of those teams is Fruitland High School, who finished the abridged 2020 season with a 1-3 record in Troy Bidwell’s first year as coach. Bidwell said the discussion to have a summer baseball season was started by American Legion administrators, who were combing through the stages of reopening. That was followed by the administrators of the Southern Idaho Conference, who met and discussed making a 5A and 4A league over the summer. 

When the 5A teams made their league separately, that opened the door for the 4A teams to create a league that Bidwell asked to be a part of. Following Fruitland’s entry into the mix, other 3A teams like Parma and Homedale entered as well. Bidwell said the league was kickstarted by Vallivue coach Justin Schneidt. 

“I just reached out and said I wanted in,” Bidwell said. 

The summer league would be made possible by the timeline set up by Idaho Gov. Brad Little to reopen Idaho from the shutdown caused by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The stages of reopening, which started on May 1, are scheduled to end on June 26. The summer league would start on June 27 and is wholly reliant on the stages of reopening following its planned schedule. 

“Just finger crossed,” Bidwell said. “And hope there are no new outbreaks.”

The 2020 spring season for Idaho was just getting underway when schools were closed in mid-March. On April 17, the Idaho High School Activities Association pulled the plug on the spring season. 

The Fruitland varsity team is scheduled to play 21 games from June 27 to July 31 and the junior varsity team is scheduled to play 15 games in that span. 

“We’re pumped,” Bidwell said. “The kids are already ready to go. It’s been a long time waiting for those guys. You know, we have to make sacrifices every once in a while to make sure the community is safe. Those guys made a sacrifice this year. All we can do now is just hope.” 

Since the games are simply exhibition, Bidwell said they are going to be focusing on making sure the athletes are having fun while playing. This includes making sure every player gets more time pitching. 

“Just go and let the kids have some fun,” he said. 

With practice starting on June 1, Bidwell said there will be social distancing guidelines in place for the summer league. Firstly, all of the schools that are in the summer league are from the Treasure Valley, which cuts down on traveling. 

Bidwell said that all Fruitland players will be required to wear gloves and have their own batting helmet. There will also be no communal use of the clubhouse at Fruitland High School (players will have to change at home). Players will also be allowed to spread to outside of the dugout to promote spacing them out. Bidwell said he has a backpack sprayer and will be using it to disinfect the hitting facility after every practice. 

“It’s going to be a lot of extra work, but we’re willing to do that to get them back on the field,” he said.

Bidwell said they are currently planning on allowing spectators into the games, with no cost at the gate. There will also be a concession at the games, but he said he is thinking about restricting sunflower seeds at the games as he doesn’t want any spitting taking place. 

“It’s going to be a lot different,” he said.

Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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