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Brian Rathjen/NT Sports Editor

Audubon’s baseball field will soon be host to games this summer, after Gov. Kim Reynolds, then the Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, gave the go-ahead for games to resume.

Tom Petersen is looking at the coming start of the 2020 baseball and softball season from two perspectives.

They come as a coach and as an activities director.

“As a coach I’m really excited for the opportunity for our kids to play, and just that people want to get out and watch,” said the Exira-EHK coach and longtime administrator. “As an AD, it’s interesting because we’ve not been given all of the information we need to have in order to monitor and be able to host games. It’s going to be different for everybody, but as long as the rules aren’t changed I’m excited for it.”

But make no mistake: Petersen, who’ll be coaching baseball for the first time this summer, is thrilled and happy as his players – particularly the seniors – will have a chance to play this summer, considering the COVID-19 pandemic and everything that’s happened these past several months.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday that allowed high school summer sports to resume in the state on June 1.

Hours later, the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and Iowa High School Athletic Association agreed to allow the games to resume. Both boards voted unanimously to let the games resume.

The Iowa Department of Education will allow games to begin Monday, June 15, with fans permitted at the games.

The decision applies only to summer sports. Per guidance from the Iowa Department of Education, coach-athlete contact for other in-person, out-of-season sports is suspended until July 1.

Sean Birks, the activities director at Audubon, is also excited to get the season started, but understands there are many questions still yet to be addressed.

“We’re hoping to learn some more on what we need to do,” he said. “But this could be a really good way to send off our seniors, who have had a really strange year.

“I hope (people) are smart about this,” he continued. “If they’re high-risk they take care of themselves and stay away (if they’re sick).”

While excited to get practice started, Petersen – like, most likely his fellow colleagues – have a number of concerns.

“From a baseball standpoint, two weeks is not long enough for our pitchers and catchers to get in shape. There’s no way their arms are going to be in shape. We try to start the first week of March but it’s a little bit different (this year),” he said.

Although Reynolds’ declaration allowed sports to resume, it was far from a sure thing, as the final decision was left to the IHSAA and IGHSAU. But the two sports governing bodies met, and both groups voted to approve resuming the 2020 season under Department of Education Guidelines.

Member schools are to follow reopening guidance entitled “Summer Sports” and “Use of School Facilities” as supplied by the Department of Education, with recommendations based on conversations with the IGHSAU, IHSAA, Iowa Department of Public Health, and the governor’s office.

Dr. Ann Lebo, executive director of the Iowa Department of Education and member of the IHSAA Board of Control, joined Reynolds at her daily briefing Thursday.

“I know many parents and athletes are eager to resume summer sports,” said Reynolds. “High school athletics was the logical place to start the process of bringing high school athletics back in season.”

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, no high school sports have taken place since March 13, when the state boys’ basketball tournament was completed. The IHSAA and IGHSAU suspended all spring sports seasons shortly thereafter, then later canceled the season altogether because of the coronavirus.

Iowa is the only state in the nation to have summer prep sports.

Reynolds’ announcement came alongside the lifting of other COVID-19 related restrictions over the coming week, including allowing – among other things – opening of swimming pools for lap swimming and lessons on Friday.

The governor also remarked that with the Iowa Department of Public Health, her office is working with youth sports organizations statewide on plans to allow youth sports to take place. More details on that are expected within the next week.

“The IHSAA thanks Dr. Lebo, Gov. Reynolds, Dr. Pedati, the IDPH and all who have worked diligently to develop these guidelines to help us conduct a baseball season for the young people in Iowa,” IHSAA executive director Tom Keating said.

“We trust that our administrators, coaches, umpires and fans will responsibly follow the guidelines in place to keep themselves and each other safe. This is terrific news and is a step toward getting our student-athletes reconnected to the activities that mean so much to them.”

“The guidelines laid out by the Department of Education and the Department of Public Health will enable us to safely move forward with a softball season this summer,” IGHSAU executive director Jean Berger said. “We are grateful for their leadership and support.

“We know the games will have different circumstances and that we will all have to work together to keep everyone safe, but we are confident that we are up to this challenge.”

The IGHSAU and IHSAA plan to issue further sport-specific guidance and “frequently-asked-questions” lists early next week.

Both organizations currently plan to conduct their state tournaments at their previously announced venues, with IGHSAU softball at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge and IHSAA baseball at Principal Park in Des Moines.

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