It’s game on for recent Minnesota high school graduates who lost their final varsity baseball season to the coronavirus pandemic.
The St. Paul Saints partnered with area baseball coaches to create the Senior Class Salute Tournament. The two-week event runs July 20 through Aug. 2 with most games taking place at the Saints’ CHS Field in downtown St. Paul.
“I thought this was a no-brainer, giving kids a chance to play,” Minnetonka baseball coach Paul Twenge said.
Tickets are $10 with a maximum of 250 fans per game. Saintsbaseball.com or PrepSpotlight.tv carries a livestream for $4.99 per game or $10.99 for the entire event.
Twenge said as of Thursday, 26 of a desired 32 teams were signed up to play. Each team will play at least three seven-inning games. He said concerns about COVID-19 kept some teams away. Only recently graduated seniors are eligible, meaning many high school teams have combined to field a team.
Twenge’s Minnetonka team, for example, will join forces with East Ridge of Woodbury. It unknown how the blended team will fare in the tournament, but their name is already a winner.
"They are the Raptors and we are the Skippers,” Twenge said. “So, we took the first three letters of their name and the last four letters of our name and we’re the Rappers. I don’t think there will be any singing or dancing, though.”
Teams from greater Minnesota are involved. Two such teams are a mix of players representing high schools from the Hiawatha Conference in the southeast and the Tomahawk Conference in the southern central region.
Some games will move to a second site because the Minnesota Twins taxi squad is holding workouts at CHS Field.
A total of eight groups of four will play a round-robin style pool play. The top team in each group will advance to a final bracketed round with the quarterfinals on Aug. 1. The semifinals and finals take place on Aug 2.
The event is similar to the Minnesota PGA Senior Showcase, a golf event held in June to allow seniors a final high school-flavored competition. The golf event was in the works before this year and could return for years to come. Baseball’s Senior Salute was inspired by the “The Last Dance World Series” in New Jersey.
“The class of 2020 has missed out on proms, commencements, grad parties and even spring sports seasons,” Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Derek Sharrer said in a press release. “While we can't give them their senior seasons back, we can provide them with an opportunity to put on the uniform, take the field, and play one last time with their high school teammates. We’re proud to team up with so many passionate coaches to salute and create lasting memories for this great senior class.”
Twenge added, “At least they get a little time in the sun.”
Charging for live web streaming of the Senior Class Salute Tournament is a sign of the future for Prepspotlight.tv. Executive Producer Andy Price said the company is “finalizing arrangements with about 25 schools around the metro and beyond to provide full coverage of most of their varsity events.”
In addition, the Minnesota State High School League, facing a significant budget deficit, is considering state tournament-focused subscriptions through Prepspotlight.tv. The livestreams have been free to this point.