As the season changes and the varsity baseball season draws to a close, summer baseball clubs across the Central Coast are gearing up for this year’s season with the pandemic still looming over them.
The San Luis Obispo Blues and Santa Barbara Foresters compete in the California Collegiate League for the first time since 2019, as the league canceled its 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.
It has been two years since the Blues walked on diamonds because of the pandemic. Blues owner Adam Stowe said playing this year was “critical for survival.”
“We made a commitment many months ago to have a season no matter what.” Stowe said, “Which means our games are going to be played.”
Stowe said the Blues are facing financial difficulties due to their canceled season. He said there was no way to recoup last year’s losses, which were in the six figure range.
“I worked for almost a decade to put the Blues in a position where we were finally paying off our debt and being profitable,” Stowe said. “And in that one year alone, it took us back this whole decade.”
The Foresters, however, played a shortened 2020 season regardless of the California Collegiate League. Christina Songer, Chairman of the Foresters Board of Directors, said this year will be easier than last year.
“There were so many unknowns last year,” Songer said, adding that everything “has changed hour by hour.” This included joining the league, canceling the league, postponing the entire season, and adjusting health protocols as the season progressed.
“Whatever they throw at us, I feel like we can tackle it after last year,” Songer said.
For the teams, a novelty this season has been the allocation of host families for the players for the season depending on whether the families prefer to accommodate a vaccinated player or not.
“If they have been vaccinated and we have a foster family who would prefer a vaccinated player, we will place them with them first,” Songer said.
Stowe said three out of 35 Blues had no intention of getting the shot when they arrived at San Luis Obispo, while Songer said the Foresters are still trying to find out which players are and are not vaccinated.
But both clubs hope to welcome fans back to their respective stadiums this year, in line with state and local regulations.
“I can’t wait to see smiles again and see the neighbors get to sit down – who haven’t been able to see each other for two years – and talk,” Stowe said.
The Blues start their season on June 11 while the Foresters open their season on June 17.