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Rogues finalizing proposal for 6-week season

Hoping to realize an abbreviated collegiate summer baseball season, the Medford Rogues are finalizing a proposal filled with protocols to provide for a safe and sanitary environment at Harry & David Field.

The proposal, which Rogues general manager Dave May had hoped to release Thursday, will go to the City of Medford, Jackson County Health & Human Services and Gov. Kate Brown’s office for approval to host games with fans in attendance here in Medford.

The six-week independent season would run July 9-Aug. 16 for a minimum of 24 games to be played every Thursday-Sunday during that span. There is a potential that the Rogues may add Tuesday games at discounted rates.

Opponents lined up already include the San Francisco Seals, Palo Alto Oaks, Fresno A’s, Bay Area Force and Cascade Collegiate League All-Stars.

“I think we have a pretty good protocol list that will allow us to maintain proper social distancing within our gates,” said May, “and still be able to serve food and beverage and still put on a good experience for entertainment for the community.”

“It’s something that we feel is important, to provide entertainment this summer if we can do so safely,” he added. “We feel that we’ve put together a great operational protocol to make that happen.”

May said the Rogues already gained a nod of approval from the city after releasing initial guidelines but added Thursday that the organization would be further reviewing its proposal to ensure all angles are covered before sending it out to other agencies.

“We’re still taking advice from the county and the governor’s office,” said May. “If there are things that they want us to change on what we’re proposing and what we’re trying to accomplish here, we’re going to listen to the experts and make our adjustments.”

May added that all protocols will fall in line with recommendations by the governor and Oregon Health Authority, and he spent part of Thursday in a meeting that went more in-depth about what a phase two opening would look like should Jackson County reach that stage or even beyond by the Rogues’ scheduled start date.

“For me personally, it’s a scary situation of course,” said May. “COVID-19 is no joke. That being said, I think we can pull everything off pretty easy actually.”

Easy, of course, being a relative term.

May’s eight-page proposal breaks down a host of protocols that players, coaches, umpires, staff and fans will need to follow, adhering mostly to social distancing recommendations and a safe, sanitized environment. Some protocols, mind you, may not be necessary in a phase two or phase three environment.

Harry & David Field would essentially operate at 25 percent capacity, allowing for around 525 spectators spread throughout the ballpark and another 75 or so from the player, coach and staff pools. The facility generally allows for around 2,250 individuals.

The Rogues plan to require everyone at the ballpark to sign liability waivers in the event that a fan, employee, player, coach or staff member contracts the coronavirus.

“Everyone will be entering the ballpark at their own risk,” said May.

Players and coaches will be tested for COVID-19 before the season starts and go through routine health evaluations prior to entering as well as exiting the ballpark each day. There will be no sharing of equipment and no autographs, handshakes or hugs allowed, and all players and coaches in the dugout or bullpen areas will be required to wear facemasks and strive to maintain a 6-foot distance at all times.

Players will not be required to wear facemasks on the field during practices and games, although the recommendation will be that umpires wear facemasks at all times.

“I wouldn’t feel safe putting a player out there under those conditions where you’re running around and having to react quickly,” said May.

Hand sanitizer will be available in each dugout for players and coaches, and there will be additional hand washing stations and sanitizers available throughout the ballpark for fans and staff.

Any individuals experiencing coronavirus symptoms or with underlying health issues will be asked to avoid coming to Harry & David Field.

“Community safety is important so we’re asking anyone who has an underlying health condition or anyone who has any type of symptom — flu symptom, COVID symptom, any of those symptoms — that they stay home and they don’t bring it here,” said May. “Obviously that’s something that we’ll have to monitor very closely.”

May said he understands the numerous protocols the Rogues plan to put in place will make for a much different ballpark experience this summer, but that’s just how it has to be.

“Nothing’s going to be normal,” he said. “Even our 25 percent capacity and all the rules that we’re going to put in place isn’t normal, but it’s going to be the new normal for now.”

When it comes to seating, advanced ticketing will be mandatory and spectators will be fanned out, even in the general admission bleachers, to accommodate for social distancing.

“The main thing we’re going to be focused on is people understanding the severity of the issue and severity of what we’re dealing with,” said May. “We’re going to be very hard on people when it comes to that type of involvement.”

The facility will run a limited concessions stand, mostly of grab-and-go prepackaged items, and May said there will be a system in place where fans will not necessarily have to leave their seats to get food or beverage. Fans will order what they want from their seat and have it delivered to them on a tray for a contactless transaction, akin to the way local restaurants are handling their dine-in patrons.

“In our opinion, we are essentially a restaurant,” said May. “We can have a baseball game without people, and we can serve food and drinks without a baseball game going on. For us, we do intertwine them together but we could do either one of them without the other technically. So from our perspective, we’re really operating and following the guidelines of the restaurants and what they’re following.”

“If I can get all the protocols in place for the players and coaches and keep them separate and have that going,” he added, “and I have a whole other set of guidelines for spectators and they never cross paths, it’s really two different things that we’re managing at the same time. Essentially it’s a restaurant and it’s a baseball game, they’re just going on at the same place at the same time more or less.”

While it would have been easier to shut everything down when the coronavirus pandemic became more prevalent in March, May and company have done all they can to extend the opportunity for some summer activities.

“In my opinion, it’s really important for these college athletes to play baseball who haven’t had the opportunity to play in the spring and so far through the summer,” said May. “Getting them back to somewhat of a routine is important to get them back to their colleges.

“We also just want to give our community something to do that we feel is going to be safe and a sanitary environment for people to come and enjoy some entertainment, enjoy their summer and enjoy the weather by getting out of the house and just getting back to as much normalcy as we can generate at this time.”

Have a local story idea? Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Medford Rogues