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LEGION BASEBALL: Legion shut down in North Idaho, but teams still plan to play as independents

by MARK NELKE
Sports Editor | July 13, 2020 1:02 AM

The on-again, off-again American Legion baseball season in North Idaho appears to be off again — this time for good.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the season for area teams, including the Coeur d’Alene Lumbermen.

“The Lums are going to continue to play through the end of July,” said Mike Thompson, president of Coeur d’Alene American Legion. “We’ll continue to play all the games that are scheduled, unless we hear from other teams that they don’t want to play us.”

A memo sent out to teams by Ken Oler of Sandpoint said the decision to cancel the remainder of the Legion baseball season in Area A (North Idaho) was made due to the rising cases of coronavirus in the region.

An unknown number of players tested positive for COVID-19, chairman of Idaho American Legion baseball Abe Abrahamson told the Lewiston Tribune. He could not say how many players or what Area A teams they are on.

“I kinda feared it was coming,” said Prairie coach Mick Zeller, citing an email chain between Legion officials in North Idaho where some expressed concern with the growing number of coronavirus cases in their area.

All or part of the Coeur d’Alene Lumbermen program have been shut down twice this season — most recently, two of the five teams were shut down for more that a week — following positive COVID-19 tests within the program.

There are two class AA teams in Area A — the Coeur d’Alene Lumbermen (who draw from Coeur d’Alene and Lake City high schools) and the Prairie Cardinals, who draw from Post Falls High), as well as several class A teams in North Idaho, including Northern Lakes, which draws from Lakeland and Timberlake high schools, Coeur d’Alene, Silver Valley, Sandpoint, Moscow, Orofino and Camas Prairie (Grangeville).

Thompson said the state Legion tourneys, scheduled for Idaho Falls (class AA) and Pocatello (class A), both starting in late July, had been canceled, due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases statewide.

Coeur d’Alene, had already said its teams would not be traveling to state tournaments, citing restrictions on travel and overnight trips.

Prairie had still planned to compete at state.

Both AA teams had already qualified for state, as the only two AA squads in Area A. They were to face teams from eastern Idaho in a modified state tournament. The number of teams from eastern Idaho (Area C) had yet to be determined.

Teams in Area B (Boise area) are playing this summer, though not as Legion teams.

Coeur d’Alene is 8-8-1. The Lumbermen last played on June 23 before their season was interrupted following positive COVID tests. Coeur d’Alene is scheduled to return to action Wednesday at home vs. the Missoula Mavericks.

Coeur d’Alene fields AA, A, 16U, 14U and 13U teams.

Thompson said Sunday’s announcement doesn’t impact his program much. Since the Lums (and many other teams statewide) have their own insurance, they can continue to play as an “independent,” not under the Legion umbrella. Many of the remaining teams on Coeur d’Alene’s schedule are club teams and not Idaho Legion teams, and they can continue to play as well.

Prairie is 1-6, losing twice to Coeur d’Alene in games to determine the 1 and 2 seeds to state from Area A. The Cardinals, who had already had 11 games canceled for various reasons, are slated to next play Friday in a doubleheader vs. visiting Moses Lake.

Zeller said he hopes the Cardinals can continue to play as an independent as well, noting any games are better than no games for his young squad.

Northern Lakes sits at 13-5, after its consolation game Sunday at the Sapa-Johnsrud Memorial Tournament in Whitefish, Mont., was canceled due to a logjam of games scheduled for Sunday. Since Northern Lakes, which went 0-3 in pool play, was not going to advance to the championship round, its game was among those canceled to ensure the tourney ended on time.

The Mountaineers are scheduled to play host to Moscow in a doubleheader on Wednesday.