JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — Baseball isn’t striking out in Joliet this year.

The independent team, the Joliet Slammers, found a way to keep fans in the stands and baseball on the diamond in spite of COVID-19, as CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reported Monday.

Players already reported for training last week and are getting ready for the season opener in Joliet on Thursday.  When its independent professional league decided to call it quits this summers, the Slammers solved the problem by creating a league of their own.

In the summer of COVID-19, Michael Deeb is playing baseball, and he couldn’t be happier.

“Baseball. That’s my love, that’s my passion,” Deeb said. “The opportunity to get on a field when a lot of people aren’t playing this year I wanted every bit of that.”

Deeb is one of the dozens of players recruited by the Joliet Slammers to keep baseball alive this year.

“We are creating our own league from scratch. And we’ve done it in 19 days,” said Nick Semaca of the Joliet Slammers.

That’s when the Slammer’s Frontier League decided the season was a no-go, but the Slammers decided to keep running the bases.

“I saw they were starting a four team league on Twitter actually ,” Deeb said.

That’s right, a brand new league. Four independent teams, all coached and managed through the Slammers.

“We went out and recruited and signed about 120 players,” Semaca said. “They are fantastic players because of all the issues that have hit minor league baseball this year.”

They won’t be playing in masks, but they are required at all other times. Dugout seating is distanced by blue tape exes and players are asked to stay away from bars, restaurants and even their families.

“Unless you have a negative test you can’t come on the filed,” Semaca said. “We just cant take a risk.”

The Slammers are selling tickets. There’s limiting seating in the stands to about a 1,000. That’s about 20% capacity  when the call goes out to play ball.

“The fact that I can be here and compete, that’s a blessing in and of itself taking a step back socially is alright,” Deeb said. We are going through an odd time in the world. But we have to persevere and make adjustments and find the positives when there is a lot of negative going around.”

 

Vince Gerasole