The Western Nebraska Pioneers baseball team is returning to the field this weekend after a month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Friday’s home game in Gering kicks off a 52-game season that will end with the Expedition League Championship Series August 21-23.
The Expedition League is a summer wooden-bat league. Current college players make up the roster, all of whom had their spring season canceled by COVID-19. With the pandemic still a concern, Pioneers’ owner Chuck Heeman is excited that the summer season is still in swing.
“We weren’t even sure up until three weeks ago that we were going to play this year,” he said. “Just the ability to get out on the field and play is really the best part about it.”
COVID-19 has forced the league to follow some guidelines.
“We’ve added some seating areas that are a little farther in the outfield to give people a chance to spread out,” Heeman said. “We’ve also added an extra concession stand so people aren’t all bunched up, multiple entries and exits for the games, things like that.”
Along with the new season comes a new head coach, Ryan Sires. He is an assistant coach at Yakima Valley College in Yakima, Wash. He will be the Pioneers’ second head coach in their three-year history.
“Ryan might have been the third person I interviewed,” Heeman said. “After that, I compared basically everybody to Ryan. So, we hired him and he got here two weeks ago, and it’s just been great.”
Even though the pandemic is still a concern, fans are ready to get back to watching America’s favorite pastime safely.
“People have been fantastic about it,” Heeman said. “The fans, they know what’s going on and know we’re doing this to keep them safe. They’ve been really good about understanding and cooperating.”
The Pioneers’ season opener versus the Pierre Trappers will start at 6:35 PM Friday night at Oregon Trail Park Stadium in Gering. Visit http://wnpioneers.pointstreaksites.com/view/westernnebraska/tickets to purchase tickets.