Top Sports Stories of 2020: Greenfield teams finally get to ‘Play ball’ – Athol Daily News

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Staff Writer

Published: 12/29/2020 6:14:33 PM

Modified: 12/29/2020 6:14:27 PM

(NOTE: This story is part of our Top Sports Stories of 2020 series, which runs throughout this week.)

With all the moving pieces over the summer, it seemed like baseball and softball games might never happen.

But after a consistent swell of insistence, some teams in Franklin County were finally able to say “Play ball” beginning in July.

The Greenfield Post 81 American Legion baseball teams led the charge, though with American Legion baseball throughout the country officially canceled due to COVID-19, the teams operated in an unofficial capacity this summer as part of the Western Mass. Summer Baseball League.

Games were still played against many regular American Legion opponents, and both the Greenfield Senior and Junior teams operated out of Vets Field. It looked a bit different, with masks and socially distancing, but it was still baseball.

“It’s all about getting the kids a chance to play some games,” Greenfield Senior manager Kyle Phelps said back in July.

Getting to the point of playing games wasn’t easy. The Greenfield Board of Health voted against allowing youth and amateur sports to take part in organized activities in June, before ultimately changing that decision weeks later. The decision in June did have unfortunate repercussions however, as both Greenfield Minor League Baseball and the Greenfield Girls Softball League canceled their 2020 seasons as a result.

“That decision (from the Board of Health) was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” GMLB President Matt Zraunig told me the day the ruling came down back in June.

With metrics improving in July and August, some teams did get a chance to play games. In addition to Post 81’s squads, the Valley Storm softball program operated during the summer and fall months, as did the Pioneer Valley Youth Baseball League’s Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle leagues.

Greenfield’s Sandy Koufax team went a perfect 14-0 on the season, winning the league title in dominant fashion. The success on the field was nice, but manager Aaron Campbell said the fact his kids were able to get out on the field at all during a pandemic was the highlight.

“Even just getting out and practicing in the beginning, the most important thing for the kids was to get out and start playing, start throwing the ball around and having some type of normalcy,” said Campbell in August. “The winning was nice but that’s not what this summer season was about.”

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