DANVILLE — Allan Shepherd spent part of Tuesday sitting at Gruber Park admiring the bright green grass.
“This is the best that our field has looked at this point in the year,’’ said Shepherd, the general manager of the Danville Post 210 legion baseball program.
He was there contemplating a very difficult decision and a few hours later, Shepherd sent out the message that the 2020 season for Post 210 Senior and Junior teams was being cancelled.
“This is the worst possible situation and it’s with an extremely heavy heart that I make this decision,’’ said Shepherd.
Actually, the Post 210 announcement came hours after the National American Legion Board announced the cancellation of the 2020 American Legion Baseball National Tournament in Shelby, N.C., along with all eight regional tournaments.
Americanism Commission Richard Anderson noted, “These times are unparalleled. And while it is distressing to think of all those youth across the nation who are disappointed to learn of the cancellation of American Legion programs this year, it would be a much, much greater tragedy if even just one of those youth were to fall ill during a program.
“The Americanism Commission feels this is the right thing to do.”
Shepherd admitted there was still some discussion about playing a limited schedule against regional opponents.
“There were a group of us, including Terre Haute, Mattoon and Rantoul, that talked about a localized league,’’ Shepherd said. “But, I cannot, in good conscious, do anything that would put any of our kids, their parents or grandparents, along with the players and families of any team that we played in jeopardy.
“Everything that you hear, see or read, talks about this coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic to be going well into the summer.’’
Tuesday’s decision caught many of the Post 210 players off guard.
“I’m still trying to process it,’’ said Noah Ruch, one of six returning players from the 2019 Illinois State and Great Lakes Regional Championship team. “I was really looking forward to this summer and trying to put together another a deep run.’’
Ruch along with Kotah Broeker, Elijah Harden, Lucas Hofer, Michael Moreman and Josh Weller were returning from last year’s team that reached the Final Four of the American Legion World Series. All six of them were entering their final year of eligibility for legion baseball.
“I wasn’t playing anywhere this spring, so I was really gearing up for this summer,’’ said Ruch, who was a 2019 Oakwood graduate that was attending Danville Area Community College this year. “I was hoping that I could have a really good summer and maybe put myself in a position to get a college offer.’’
Shepherd put Tuesday’s announcement into proper perspective in a text message to the Post 210 family.
“This is worse than losing to 88,’’ wrote Shepherd referring to long-time rival Mattoon Post 88.
As of right now, Shepherd said his decision only affects the Junior and Senior programs.
“Right now, we are still going to try to get a few games in with our youth teams,’’ Shepherd said. “Those kids can play deeper into the summer and even into the fall if we can find some games.’’
And what about the 2021 season?
“We are going to come back stronger than ever,’’ Shepherd said. “We might end up playing 60 games. I’m going to try and get us into every tournament that I can, from legion ball to travel ball. We will stick to the legion rules and playing the legion postseason, but we are going to play anyone and everyone.’’
With the time off this summer, Shepherd is going to fill his time by completing a couple of projects that are needed at Gruber Park.
“We’ve had a few things that we’ve wanted to do over the years and now, that’s going to happen,’’ he said.
Shepherd also pointed out that Danville will remain the defending Fourth Division, Illinois State and Great Lakes Region champions until the 2021 campaign.