When the National American Legion shut down all sponsorship and involvement with its baseball program last week due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it left thousands of high school-aged players with no options to participate in the game this summer.
Members of Connecticut American Legion Zone II, which includes much of Greater New Haven, are putting together a plan to form their own league for the summer.
The league, tentatively called the Independent Zone II League, would include all 10 members in a 19U league; eight teams in a 17U league and four or five teams in a 15U league.
The 10-game season would run from July 6-Aug. 2, with the potential for league playoffs.
“The concept is good, we just have to work out some kinks,” said Charlie Flanagan, general manager of North Haven Post 76. “The issues we need to address are testing, tracing, social distancing and that kind of thing we need to have in place so we don’t do anything that’s inappropriate.”
Flanagan, who operates an insurance agency, said he secured carriers for a potential summer league to cover accident, medical and liability for sports teams at a reasonable rate. Once that was obtained, he and North Haven coach Andrew Lucey reached out to other teams in the zone to gauge interest.
Zone II legion coaches in New Haven, Orange, Branford, Madison, East Haven, West Haven, Hamden and Milford were all interested. A conference call was held Monday night to discuss some of the basics, and another call will be held next week to begin ironing out details.
Flanagan envisions a format in which games would be held exclusively on weekends, perhaps many at one location, to spark the interest of area college coaches. He also plans to reach out to representatives of other American Legion zones throughout the state, and perhaps the Northeast, in hopes for expansion for a possible postseason event.
Of course, amateur baseball at every level needs the approval of the state. As of Monday, the restrictions of large gatherings, which include youth sports, had been extended to June 20.
“We are our own organization, it’s just a matter of Governor Lamont giving the green light to open up the state,” Flanagan said. “American Legion baseball is tremendous. It’s a tradition that needs to keep going, and that’s a motivating force here. It’s comraderie and it’s class baseball. We just want to create an opportunity that expands upon what’s been out there for a long time.”