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Before I forget, I wanted to wish someone very special to me a happy (heavenly) birthday.

Happy birthday, Dad!

He’d have been 77 years old today.

* * *

It worked.

The fact that Iowa high school baseball and softball tournaments are taking place this week is nothing short of a miracle. Especially when you consider that as late as early May, there were serious questions about whether there would be summer sports in Iowa due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But we reached the final week of the 2020 season, shortened and all, and nine teams total – five in softball and four in baseball – will be bringing home something they likely at some point never thought they would bring home: A state championship trophy.

I don’t know how many of you watch Keith Murphy’s reports on Des Moines’ TV station WHO (channel 13). (Some of you may get this station, depending on satellite or cable TV provider.)

But in a series of editorials during the past few days, the numbers Murphy quoted in his “Murphy’s Law” editorials were eye-popping: 94 percent of all baseball teams and 92 percent of all softball teams statewide, out of more than 330 teams for each sport, were never impacted due to a COVID-19 positive test on their team. Of course, some of those teams may have had games cancelled because opponents had a positive test, but more than nine in 10 teams never had to take quarantine or lost a large part of their already shortened seasons due to the coronavirus.

I may have stated this already, and forgive me if I have, but none of the eight schools in the News-Telegraph’s coverage area had a positive COVID-19 test and players and other team personnel having to go into quarantine.

Zero.

Yes, a couple of our area teams did lose games against impacted teams, including IKM-Manning and Woodbine, and there were a couple of scares. But we got through unscathed, and that is in part due to the desire to stay healthy, be disciplined, not do stupid things to get potentially exposed ... all of that good stuff.

I feel for the teams that did have a positive COVID-19 test during the last two weeks of the season and thus lost their post-season as well (because their quarantine period ran past date of what would have been their first-round game). The age-old lesson of “life is not fair” applies here.

There is, of course, the counter-argument. A Facebook friend posted similar thoughts to what you just read, and one of the comments he received had a (admittedly) very good counter-argument. Noting how very contagious coronavirus has proven to be, the response post noted that, assuming just one infected player per impacted team (47 total), and that each one of the infected players infected 2.5 others ... well, the numbers multiply quickly.

“We can’t measure the effect of COVID-19 by evaluating how it affects us individually, but how it affects our community,” the post stated.

It’ll be interesting to see how future cases can be directly attributed to summer sports in Iowa, and nobody knows how the fall sports season – still a go as I type this – will work out. But for now, the high school summer sports season appears to have been a success.

* * *

It was great to see the Major League Baseball season get underway this past weekend.

Yes, it was a bit strange to see the live games on TV and the players playing in (nearly) empty stadiums. I saw at least two home runs sail into the stands and just bounce off the bleachers, instead of seeing groups of fans jockeying for the right to grab the ball.

But it was great to get back to some sense of normalcy.

As you may know, I primarily follow the Chicago Cubs, so what I heard on the radio Friday night was particularly impressive. Kyle Hendricks gave up just three hits – all to the No. 9 batter – as the Cubs shut down the Milwaukee Brewers 3-0 in the opening game.

Hendricks needed 103 pitches to do the job, and it was his rise ball that really fooled the Brew crew to the tune of nine strikeouts. Props to manager David Ross, in his first game with the Cubs, to allow him to finish the complete game ... and Hendricks returned that leap of faith by getting Keston Hiura to bounce into a fielder’s choice to end the game.

I think that, assuming the season does indeed reach the finish line – more on that in a second – Hendricks could really have a great season. His first opening-day assignment and fourth career shutout are good signs.

* * *

With that said, there’s a few commentators who are already declaring the season to be in jeopardy.

This comes after a COVID-19 outbreak with the Miami Marlins, where multiple players and coaches tested positive for the dread illness.

This in turn impacted at least two series – the Marlins vs. Baltimore, and the New York Yankees vs. the Philadelphia Phillies.

Again, high school baseball and softball in Iowa for the most part was a success. There were – as stated twice in this column in previous weeks – signs those players and coaches who were affected weren’t contracting it on the field, but elsewhere.

I realize Major League Baseball is a much different ballgame than high school baseball (and softball), but it still begs the question: How did this happen?

Maybe it’s the travel and players contracting it at hotels, restaurants and other places where people who are both symptomatic and asymptomatic have been?

Maybe it’s players contracting it in everyday life and passing it on to each other?

Lots of theories.

At this point, though, here we are.

Fingers crossed that this fire can be put out, and more importantly those stricken can recover as quickly as possible so they can return to whatever semblance of normal, everyday life there is, whatever that is.

For the moment, for those (very hopefully) never show symptoms and those who have fallen ill, baseball is secondary.

But long term, Major League Baseball better have some answers quickly on how to deal with this.

Seriously.

Otherwise, this column may be outdated by the time you read this and we’ll be reading about the 2020 season in either a past tense.

The scary thing is that, at least for the moment, the National Hockey League had reportedly zero – that’s right, a goose egg – positive tests out of more than 4,200 administered to players and others during the week of July 25.

In other leagues worldwide, including even here in the United States (such as the NBA) have had few to no cases and are playing or are about to.

And up until the Marlins’ outbreak, fewer than one-tenth of everyone associated with baseball had a positive test since baseball restarted.

Again, where did baseball go wrong?

To reach Brian Rathjen, send correspondence to sports@ant-news.com or phone (712) 243-2624.