North Dakota Legion baseball teams say 'Play ball;' Minnesota teams still waiting

Fargo Post 2 coach Luke Rustad give instruction during practice at Jack Williams Stadium on Thursday, May 28, 2020. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — There may not be the aroma of hot dogs and popcorn in the air. There may not be the sight of sunflower seeds being spit to the ground. There may not be any pregame meetings with umpires or lineup announcements. And there may not be any shaking of hands after the game.

Even with these rituals of baseball disappearing because of the coronavirus pandemic, American Legion baseball is alive and well in North Dakota.

“The game will look a little bit different but for the game itself, it will be the same,” said Todd Rheault, vice president of West Fargo Baseball.

Rheault and others in North Dakota found a way for the Legion baseball teams to still have a season — even though the Legion’s national organization and the state organizations officially canceled the seasons last month. Instead of operating under the Legion regime, area programs have chartered with the state’s Senior Babe Ruth organization.


“We needed another governing body to have insurance and liability coverage,” said Fargo Post 2 Legion coach Luke Rustad.

“It was a difference maker,” Rheault said. “Once the Legion stepped out and they stepped in, that was crucial in my mind to keep this season going. There is a lot more comfortability with all the parks departments that are involved.”

As a result, West Fargo opened its season Monday with a home game against Harrisburg, S.D. Fargo Post 2 will open its season Wednesday with a home game at Jack Williams Stadium against West Fargo. Fargo Post 400 will open its season Wednesday at Jamestown before playing at West Fargo on Thursday.

Things are not progressing as quickly for Legion teams in Minnesota. They are still waiting for the go-ahead from the state and as a result have yet to get one practice in.

Moorhead Legion coach Bryant Bergeson is hoping to be able to start playing games after the Fourth of July. That would be a month-long schedule of District 9 teams from Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes, Bemidji, Alexandria, East Grand Forks, Thief River Falls and Perham.


“It’s frustrating but we kind of knew it would be like this,” Bergeson said. “I just feel bad for the kids. If we can get something going for them, at least it’s something.”

Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton is also waiting to see when it can start playing. DGF coach Allen Krueger is hoping to schedule some kind of season with Minnesota Lakes Conference members Hawley, Frazee, New York Mills, Parkers Prairie, Breckenridge, Pelican Rapids and Barnesville.

Like North Dakota, Minnesota teams are looking to charter with Babe Ruth Baseball.

“We are all hanging on the word from the state when we can start playing,” said Krueger, whose team last year claimed the program’s first Division II state Legion championship. “We would like to start practicing by June 8, if possible.”

Meanwhile in North Dakota, practices have certainly been different due to guidelines placed on programs because of the pandemic.

Players must stand six feet away from each other. Six players are limited in the dugout at one time. There will no longer be high fives and hugs. Players are asked to bring their own water, helmets and bats.

“I’m not going to say it has been easy,” said Rustad. “Let’s just say it has been a work in progress.”

“They are doing the best that they can,” Anderson said of his Post 400 players. “We have to keep reminding them. And if we do come together as a team, we put our masks on.”


According to state guidelines, no more than 250 fans can attend games. They are asked to remain socially distant.

West Fargo has 49 games on its schedule, including trips to Omaha, Sioux Falls, Minot and Williston. Rheault said they will not be using a bus to transport players but are asking parents to transport their own kids. And the players will be staying with the parents in motel rooms.

“We will go this route through the month of June and then make a decision from there if we need to make any adjustments,” Rheault said. “We feel good about the safety aspect of it all.”

Because the season will last until the end of July, the state tournament that was scheduled to be in Bismarck will most likely be moved to West Fargo Aug. 5-9.

“I am elated we can play baseball,” said Rustad, whose Post 2 team last year placed second in the American Legion World Series with a 54-8 record. “I was thinking what I can do this summer? There are only so many chores that I can do at home.”

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