The high school softball and baseball seasons are underway in Iowa.
The fan experience is different at area fields this season because of health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Teams had just two weeks of practice after not having school or any school-related activity since March.
The Hawkeye 10 and Corner Conferences released expectations and regulations last week designed to keep all teams in the respective conference on the same page. These regulations also give visiting fans a good idea of what to expect when traveling to any other school in the conference.
Game admission looks different. Admission is a free will donation in both conferences. The Hawkeye 10 said in a release admission will help schools offset costs for umpires and PPE. The Corner Conference said no change will be given. The typical cost for adults to attend a game at most locations is $5, and the area activities directors said that is the recommended amount.
“We are not making change, so it’s just a drop and go,” Clarinda activities director Josh Porter said. “We are trying to have a minimal amount of touching or exchanging of anything.”
Spectators wanting a program are encouraged to download the Varsity Bound app on their phone to access team rosters and statistics. Paper programs are not being provided at most schools.
Seating is another big change. Both conferences are encouraging fans to bring their own chairs with the recommendation to sit on the same side of the field as your team’s dugout. Bleacher seating is limited at most facilities. Shenandoah activities director Aaron Burdorf said the bleachers are not available to fans at Shenandoah.
“Due to our limited space in dugouts, we need a place for varsity players to go during junior varsity games and vice versa,” said Burdorf. “We don’t want to take other space away from our fans so that is where we will locate our extra players.”
Social distancing is expected at other schools where bleachers are available.
Concession stands are not available because of guidelines from the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Department of Public Health. Fans are allowed to bring coolers to the games with school-appropriate products. Sharing of food or drink outside the family is not allowed.
Restrooms are available, but with limited occupancy.
Fans are encouraged to not chase after foul balls. The defensive team is in charge of bringing foul balls back to their respective dugout and each team is assigning a team member to chase down foul balls. Any ball leaving the field of play has to be sanitized and allowed to dry before being put back into the game.
Spectators are encouraged to bring their own hand sanitizer. Masks are not required, but are encouraged for those who wish to wear them.
Fans attending games accept personal responsibility for following public health guidelines and are encouraged to practice social distancing between households. Fans are also expected to observe and abide by all posted signage. The Hawkeye 10 release stated a representative from each school will help keep expectations in order.
As with any gathering, anyone experiencing symptoms or anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days needs to stay home.
“We ask if you aren’t feeling well, please don’t come,” said Burdorf. “We want everyone to enjoy the games and have a fun, safe and healthy summer. Hopefully everyone can work together to make that happen.”