As sports leagues and organizations around the country delay and cancel games and tournaments because of COVID-19, the Northwoods League and the La Crosse Loggers are currently “full steam ahead,” Loggers team president Chris Goodell told the Tribune on Wednesday.
The league held a conference call last week, Goodell said, to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to have calls as the season nears. For now, though, the league and its members feel they have enough time until the start of the season — La Crosse’s first game is scheduled for May 26 — to continue with business as usual and hold off on any sort of postponement or cancellation with hopes of avoiding both entirely.
Goodell said the Loggers don’t have an individualized backup plan in place if the season were to be delayed or canceled and said such planning was in the hands of the Northwoods League office.
“We have the utmost faith and trust in our league office,” said Goodell, who also noted a report by ESPN’s Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel that states the MLB is hoping to start in early June. “They’re really good at what they do. You don’t get to be the largest summer collegiate league in the country without having really, really good people leading our league.”
“We really kind of hope to be the light at the end of a dark tunnel for a lot of people,” he added. “And that means fans — who are being kept without baseball, kept without sports, kept at home. We really hope that can be the opportunity for everybody to get back out and enjoy normalcy.”
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That also includes players, who had their college seasons cut short. Goodell said he’s received more calls, texts and emails from college coaches trying to find spots for their players than in previous years as a result of the shortened seasons. The Northwoods League is also allowing teams to carry an extended roster.
“The Northwoods League has always been a very important outlet to collegiate baseball coaches and programs because of getting their players out to give them an opportunity to get better, to get exposed (to scouts),” Goodell said. “It’s now become even more important.”
Traditionally, the Loggers have players report the Saturday before Memorial Day, and the team typically has to account for players who are still finishing up postseason play. But with college baseball shut down across the country, that would not be an issue if the Northwoods League opens play as scheduled.
In the meantime, the Loggers are working to maintain relationships with their partners as Wisconsin’s nonessential businesses close because of COVID-19.
“We talked around this office, ‘Can it impact you as an individual? Can it impact us as an organization? Well, who else are you going to talk to around our area that it isn’t impacting?’” Goodell said. “Everybody’s got their own story to tell. So we’re very cognizant of how it’s affecting everyone, and we want to find a way to always make it work for everyone.”
Goodell said keeping facilities clean will be even more of a focus for the organization this year, and he hasn’t heard much concern about the ongoing pandemic from families that will host players.
“We look at it, again, hopefully for us to be a tremendous outlet for fans because people have been without sports,” Goodell said. “They’ve been without baseball. They’ve been without friends and neighbors and you name it. We can be that outlet.”
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