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A little more than a month ago, I headlined my column “Gut puncher.”

Because – and let’s face it, it was – the decision to cancel spring sports in Iowa by the Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union was just that ... a real punch to the gut.

It hurt like hell.

But at the time, when things were really ramping up with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the right decision. There weren’t enough assurances that sports in Iowa could take place safely, either for athletes, fans, officials, coaches or others.

A month ahead, it was the right decision.

Now, I can say, without reservation that I’m excited and elated for the athletes who will get to finish their high school sports seasons – and for the seniors, their sports careers – in a matter that’s deserving of them.

It was just this week Gov. Kim Reynolds gave the go-ahead for schools to reopen on June 1, and with that, allow the resumption of high school sports.

Just hours after her proclamation, the Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union followed suit.

It’s “play ball,” and in a few weeks, that’s exactly what will be taking place on area high school fields.

Rest assured, I’m sad for a lot of the people in this whole crazy mess that’s been called the coronavirus.

The senior athletes who – thanks to this illness – were robbed of so many things, including one last chance to go to state or compete with their friends and classmates.

But, of course, also sad for the families who lost loved ones – a mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, friend ... the list goes on. More than 93,000 lives later nationwide, we’ve lost way too many.

But here’s hoping that, in the game of life and metaphorically speaking, this time, the athletes and the past times they love – baseball and softball – will triumph over an awful illness that has robbed us of the things we once took for granted.

There’s still I’m sure a lot of questions that have yet to be answered in the coming days by everyone involved.

For now, I’m just excited and grateful that, in a few short weeks, I’ll be going back again to cover the athletes I’ve come to admire, respect and enjoy seeing compete.

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