Brody Sorenson moved quickly to his right, backhanding the bouncer down the third-base line. He pulled up, turned and tossed the baseball to second base.
While the play was made during batting practice, it was still a chance Sorenson relished.
“It was just practice,’’ Sorenson said. “But it was fun just being back out on the baseball field, out there with your teammates.’’
After being dealt two strikes, baseball is back at Kraft Field in Grand Forks. A first-year Grand Forks Senior Babe Ruth team, for players ages 16-18, began practices this week. Grand Forks is scheduled to host West Fargo on June 10 in its season opener.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, first the high school baseball season in North Dakota was canceled. Then, because of the pandemic, the American Legion baseball season was canceled.
Participating in Senior Babe Ruth was an idea that sprung up across the state from Legion coaches. But the Grand Forks team is parent driven. Former UND baseball coach Kelvin Ziegler led the push.
“I started to put together a budget to see if we could have a team,’’ Ziegler said. “I talked to the park board about using the field. I checked on how it would work. We had a parents’ meeting and they wanted to go ahead with it. After the meeting, I was asked if I would be interested in coaching.’’
Ziegler agreed after making sure he could balance it with his work schedule.Eric Wolfe, Grant Larson, Tim Gregoire and Mike Faller joined Ziegler on an all-volunteer coaching staff.
The team is self-supporting. Each player will pay approximately $340 to cover things such as paying umpires, paying for baseballs, rental for Kraft Field and the Babe Ruth charter fee. Each player also will get a jersey.
Players will provide their own bats, batting helmets, gloves and pants. There will be no team bus for road games; parents will drive players to and from games.
“The things kids really remember are the fun on the bus rides, the time together in motels,’’ Ziegler said. “All that has been taken away. I told the kids if they love playing baseball, then that’s why we’re here.’’
Dealing with COVID-19 also is a concern.
“It will be different,’’ Sorenson said. “With COVID, there will be different rules we have to go by.’’
Ziegler said there will be social distancing. A limited number of players and coaches will be allowed in the dugout; the rest will be spread out along the fence line.
Spitting and sunflower seeds won’t be allowed. There will be no high-fives or hand slaps. The number of spectators at games will be limited.
“We have to be responsible people if we’re going to make it work,’’ Ziegler said. “If we have one incident with COVID, we’re shutting down for the year. Hopefully we can get through the season without that.’’
As far as quality of play, Ziegler is optimistic.
Four players -- Sorenson, Zach Carolin, Parker Monette and Joey Grabanski -- have commited to play college baseball. Those four, along with Jackson Haagenson and Channing LeNoir, were on last season’s Grand Forks Royals team that was state Legion runner-up.
The remainder of the roster consists of players who were on last summer’s state-qualifying Grand Forks Blues Legion team. “We think we have a pretty good group,’’ Ziegler said.
Ziegler said Senior Babe Ruth is a one-year option. “I want Legion baseball back,’’ Ziegler said. “We’re just trying to fill a void for the summer.’’
The players are just happy to have a chance.
“It’s nice to get to play again,’’ Sorenson said.