TRAVERSE CITY — Opening day for the Traverse City Pit Spitters heads back to the dugout for awhile.
The Pit Spitters organization said the opener, originally set for May 26 at the Battle Creek Bombers, is pushed back to a yet to be determined date because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Northwoods League postponed the May 26 opening date indefinitely in a release Thursday morning.
Pit Spitters general manager Mickey Graham said it’s unlikely the league can start playing baseball until June, meaning two-game sets against the Bombers, at home versus the Lakeshore Chinooks and at the Kalamazoo Growlers will also be impacted.
“As soon as things open up, we’re going to play games,” Graham said, adding that the team is planning for varying scenarios as to government requirements or restrictions for public gatherings.
“We’re working through all the processes. There’s a lot of things to work on. We’re going to do whatever we can to make games safe for our players, employees and fans.”
In the last two weeks, many other summer leagues canceled their season outright, including the Cape Cod League, New England Collegiate Baseball League, Ohio Valley League, Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, Golden State Collegiate Baseball League, Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, New York Collegiate Baseball League and Valley League (Virginia). Many other leagues have pushed back opening day, and at least three other leagues have at least one team refusing to play at all.
Two summer collegiate leagues with teams in Michigan, the Northwoods and Great Lakes United Baseball League, both postponed their openers, but aim to play the season.
Eleven Northwoods League games were slated for the May 26 opener.
Graham said the team is looking to have additional hand sanitizer stations and masks for employees, and is also looking into the possibility of a temperature check for fans entering the stadium and working on potential seating arrangements depending on how many they’re allowed to have in Turtle Creek Stadium at once.
“Baseball is something people look forward to,” Graham said. “It’s a part of the lifestyle, so we want to open up as soon as possible.
“But How do you social distance a clubhouse? How do to social distance a dugout? We don’t anticipate we’ll be able to have 4,000 or 5,000 people in (the stadium).”
Individual game tickets are not currently on sale but will be made available once a season start date has been determined. The team currently is donating 50% of online merchandise sale proceeds to the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation.
“We are a community-based organization and we know that our brand of fun can help our Northern Michigan community through this difficult time” Pit Spitters CEO Joe Chamberlin said in a press release. “Getting back to playing baseball on a beautiful summer night will be a great step towards returning to normalcy as soon as public health restrictions allow us to do that. We can’t wait for our team to hit the field and start their defense of the 2019 Northwoods League championship.”