Good things come to those who wait – at least for the Hastings Sodbusters.
The Expedition League had multiple delays to the season but finally decided they could safely start the season in late June.
“The easy part was to decide to play baseball,” said Scott Galusha, the owner and general manager of the Sodbusters. “The hard part was figuring out how we’re going to get there, based upon the environment that we live in.”
Galusha brought all of the Sodbusters staff together on May 30 to get the team and stadium ready for a potential season. They realized that it would have been easier to plan for a season in 2021, but Galusha said they wanted to allow the kids an opportunity to play.
“I didn’t want to be able to look in the mirror and say, ‘I didn’t do everything I could to try to make this happen,” he said. “As a staff, we all said, ‘Hey, if we can make this work, let’s do it.’”
As a result of the new season, the Sodbusters were one of six teams allowed to play instead of the normal ten teams. As a result, many players expressed their interest in the Sodbusters. One of those athletes was Grand Island Senior High graduate Cole Evans. He’s a sophomore at Parkland Junior College in Champaign, Illinois. He was planning on playing for a league in Connecticut, but after they canceled, he contacted Galusha.
“I called him up and they had a spot for me; I couldn’t be more excited,” Evans said.
Returning players have also expressed their excitement about playing with the Sodbusters again this season. Another former Islander Casey Burnham, a junior at Kansas, planned on joining a New England league for a team in Martha’s Vineyard, before that season was canceled.
“I contacted [Galusha] and he was happy to have me play this year,” he said. “I’m just happy to play baseball this summer.”
Galusha says putting the roster together was, “a long process.” He said the head coach Bill Clay and his assistant Bryan Frew called the schools of all the players, while Galusha called all the parents, which he says, “is not the league norm.”
“I make sure my players are great people, great students, great athletes,” Galusha said. “These kids have a great opportunity, but they also know how fortunate they are to play.”
The roster consists of 34 baseball players, 23 of whom are from out of state. Galusha said community members who open up their homes are a vital part of the Sodbuster program.
“We rely heavily on host families,” he said. “Living in the pandemic, though, made the process a little more difficult.”
Players have had to find time and space to work out since the quarantine started. Casey Burnham used the batting cage of one of his friends.
“I’ve been going into that cage every day, hitting and playing catch,” he said. “I’ve been doing that to stay on top of my game.”
Cole Evans stayed on top of working out, but he started going to the batting cages more in May.
“I never really stopped physically working out and lifting,” he said. “But more recently, I started getting back into ‘baseball shape’ by going to the cages more and playing catch.”
The Sodbusters stadium Duncan Field will have fewer people in attendance. Gov. Pete Ricketts’ new Covid-19 regulations would allow 975 people in the stands, or about 75% capacity. The Sodbusters have decided to sell 650 tickets per game, which is about half the stadium capacity.
“We’re still going to use the rest of that capacity,” he said. “But we’re going to do that by having standing room/bring your own chair.”
And, Galusha says, “it will still feel like a normal baseball game.” They plan on opening the concession stand, but with two separate lines that will go in opposite directions for ordering and pickup.
Players will be required to have their temperature taken before they leave home.
With everything that has taken place to get the season off the ground, Evans is going to focus solely on playing the game.
“I don’t like to put expectations on myself,” he said. “I feel like I play better when I play loose and play to have fun. Things will take care of themselves.”
Galusha is excited for Friday night’s season opener against the Fremont Moo.
“I am extremely proud of our roster,” he said. “They know they have a wonderful opportunity many kids aren’t getting. That’s what I’m expecting them to show on and off the field.”