The Hays Larks are still planning on playing baseball this summer, setting their season opener for June 15 at Larks Park.
"Everything is still tentative on things proceeding as laid out, but we’re looking to start our season on June the 15th and bring players in June 10th," Larks manger Frank Leo said Friday.
Opening the season on that date could be contingent on Kansas entering into Phase 3 of Gov. Laura Kelly’s COVID-19 recovery plan that was revised on Thursday.
Currently, mass gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. Phase 2, which will allow for mass gatherings up to 30 people, will start no earlier than June 1.
Phase 3, which will go into effect no earlier than June 15, allows for no more than 90 people in a mass gathering.
However, after discussions with officials, the Larks believe they can adhere to the state guidelines without having to limit attendance to a maximum of 90 people.
Leo said the plan is to have fans spread out and separated enough to avoid large clusters of people that would violate the guidelines.
"We just need to follow what guidelines are laid out by the state — social distancing from those mass clusters, social distancing for going in and out of the ballpark, social distancing at the concession stand," Leo said.
Leo has had discussions with Ellis County Health Services director Jason Kennedy about how to create a safe environment and abide by state rules.
"We’ve got to be cautious," Leo said. "We fully understand the situation at hand. We want to have a safe environment. We’re kind of in that phase now where it’s about how much risk people want to take. If they want to come out to the park and enjoy some baseball, it’s their decision. We’ll try to offer it the best we can."
Under the governor’s guidelines, mass gatherings are defined as "instances in which individuals are in one location and are unable to maintain 6 feet of distance between individuals (not including individuals who reside together) with only infrequent or incidental moments of closer proximity."
Leo noted the set-up at Larks Park allows ways for fans to view games from a distance, if desired.
"They could sit on the dike and watch it," Leo said. "It’s a ways away but it’s not a bad view out there; I’ve been up there. And down the sidelines .. there’s ways we can separate people.
"Some of our bigger events that we normally hold, we’ll have to be careful with. Opening night is always a real big event, so we’ll have to watch crowd control there."
The Larks are still planning on holding special nights, including First Responders Night, Educators Night, Larkstoberfest and Stand Up 2 Cancer. Because of safety concerns, they will not hold Military Night in their traditional manner, but will still find a way to honor veterans, Leo said.
Hays is set to join the Rocky Mountain Baseball League this summer. The Fort Collins Foxes have canceled their season because of a lack of field availability, but the other eight RMBL teams are still planning on playing.
The Larks now have a revised 34-game schedule. They are scheduled to play the Colorado Springs Outlaws in a nonleague game for the June 15 opener.