The wait was difficult for the Ottawa American Legion baseball players, but baseball is back.
The players and coaches gathered for their first practice Tuesday night at the Orlis Cox Sports Complex. It was a cool, rainy practice, but that did not dampen their spirits.
"I am excited to be back out here," Ryan Laurie said. "I didn’t care if it was pouring, I was coming out here today."
The high school players had not been on the diamond since mid-March. During spring break, the high school season was canceled because of COVID-19 concerns.
"I was real disappointed," Laurie said. "I was ready for the high school season. We were going to be good, possible state champions. We had to stop playing. It was gut-wrenching, especially for the seniors. I feel bad for them. They lost their last season in high school."
Laurie said the wait for the start of the Legion season was painful. Organized sports received the go ahead to practice this past Friday when the governor’s Ad Astra Plan went to Phase 2.
"It has been too long," he said. "I have not been doing much. I was stuck inside by myself. I did not have anybody to go practice with even when I wanted to. Being back with your friends playing ball, I love it. I missed it a lot."
The players admittedly were rusty as they took swings in the batting cage and fielded fly balls and grounders on the Cox South outfield grass.
"The second round was much better than my first," Laurie said of his timing in the cage. "It was nice [to play catch]. It was a little hard because it was wet. You could tell when we did soft toss, it was a little rusty from when we left off."
Most of the players have not played in an organized game since last summer. They have two weeks to prepare for this summer’s season opener.
"Usually by now, we have played a whole season," Laurie said. "Right now, I have only seen live pitching a couple of times. I will have to work hard and get back into it. The mental part of it, too, because it has been so long."