HANNIBAL | The smell of fresh cut grass and the sounds of the crack of the bat and cheering fans are once again occurring at Clemens Field as games resumed this week.
An exhibition game between the Hannibal and Elsberry 16U teams took place on Tuesday night, with several games planned for this coming weekend.
Most of the players participating in the exhibition contests this summer would had been playing American Legion ball, but that season was canceled. Since that announcement, teams from around the region have decided to play independent of the Legion.
“The Legion season got canceled, so basically those teams decided to join together to play this summer so the boys can get some baseball in,” said Hannibal 16U coach Sean Hampton. “We took care of our uniforms and insurance for the summer. Basically just scheduling games with each other and trying to get a season in for them.”
The 16U team that Hampton coaches has players from Hannibal, Mark Twain, Marion County Van-Far and North and Shelby High Schools.
The Hannibal 16U team is in a 16-team league that includes teams as far away as the St. Louis area and Illinois. On Sunday, the Hannibal 16U team played a road doubleheader against a team from Washington, Mo. and from Alton, Ill.
Hampton said the parents and kids are excited that baseball can be played this summer.
“Everybody is just really stoked and excited to get out and play,” Hampton said. “We are trying to do our best to social distance as much as we can while playing. We are encouraging the parents to separate from other families as much as they can, and we are changing our postgame ceremonies to getting out of the dugout and tipping out caps, instead of handshakes.”
Teams playing at Clemens Field have taken extra precautions to ensure safety.
“We keep hand sanitizer on hand, and game balls are changed in and out,” Hampton said. “We are not putting water coolers where they could potentially share cups. It's only bottled water and stuff like that.”
The 18U Hannibal team coached by Charlie Culp will play several games this weekend, at 6 p.m. on Friday, 1 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday. The 16U team will also play again on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Exhibition games will continue to be played throughout June and July. There is no admission fee for the game, and there is limited concessions available such as bottled drinks, chips, popcorn and candy bars.
The Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department spent time during the winter and spring renovating the field, which was damaged by flooding last year.
“I can't sing the praises for those folks, (the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department) just worked their tails off getting this field ready for us,” Hampton said. “They were working on it anyway in anticipation of the Legion playing here in the summer. When it got canceled, they thought they had a break until this came back around.”