During these uncertain times when our daily lives have been rearranged, Docs baseball coach Jeremiah Robbins has kept one simple message in mind: The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t changed the distance from the mound to home plate or home to first.
The game of baseball is still the same.
Yet, as the Docs began their independent summer schedule Friday afternoon, things will have a slightly different feel around Bill Gray Legion Stadium at Champion Car Wash Field.
State regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have forced a change to the typical game day operations at Champion Field. To prepare fans for the new protocols, we talked with Tom Donegan, a commissioner with the local American Legion which operates the facility.
“If we want to keep playing baseball (at Champion Field), we have to obey what the guidelines are,” Donegan said.
A maximum of 250 fans will be allowed to fill the seats in the 3,125 capacity stadium. Donegan says spectators will enter through the West gate (near Stewart Parkway) and they’ll exit on the South side (facing Stewart Park).
A running total of the number of fans in attendance will be kept at both gates and entry will be stopped once the limit is met. Donegan estimates that the Docs drew about 600-700 fans for home games last summer and expects the games to reach the 250 limit this year.
Social distancing will be required, unless fans reside in the same household. Signs posted around the park will remind patrons, as well as regular announcements over the public address system.
New handwashing stations will be set up near each dugout for fans and teams to use. Face coverings are not required, but are encouraged. Dugouts, bathrooms and the stands will be disinfected before and after games.
Donegan says the Docs players have gone through daily symptom checks when they arrive for practices and will continue to do so throughout the season. Fans will not be subject to symptom checks when attending games, but they are encouraged to remain at home if they feel ill.
Admission to the games this year will be $5 for adults and $4 for seniors and students. Seating will be unassigned except for social distancing requirements.
The Lions Den concession stand, which typically produces the pleasant aroma of hot dogs, hamburgers, curly fries and popcorn, will be closed for the season.
Fans are encouraged to bring their own food and drink.
The Docs’ souvenir stand will also be closed for the season.
“We’ve never gone through this before, but we’re quick learners,” said Donegan, who added that “no matter how hard it gets, it’s better than nothing.”
The Docs’ season-opening Father’s Day Tournament will feature the Eugene Challengers, Olé Athletics, Klamath Falcons, North Medford Black Tornado and Northwest Diamond Sports, an All-Star team from Tualatin.
Games will be played at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
For Docs fans who can’t attend the game, Roseburg-based sports talk radio station, The Score 92.3 FM and 1490 AM, will be broadcasting the action. The station also provides a video stream of Docs contests on 541radio.com.