As the season changes and the college baseball season comes to a close, the Central Coast's summer baseball clubs are preparing for this year's season with the pandemic still looming over them.
The San Luis Obispo Blues and Santa Barbara Foresters are participating in the California Collegiate League for the first time since 2019, as the league canceled its 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.
It's been two years since the Blues stepped on the diamond due to the pandemic. Blues owner Adam Stowe said playing this year was "critical for survival."
"We committed many, many months ago to having a season no matter what." Stowe said, "Meaning our games are going to be played."
Stowe said the Blues faced financial difficulties due to their canceled season. He said there wasn’t a way to recoup last year's losses, which were in the six figure range.
"I worked for basically a decade to get the Blues in a position where we were finally paying down our debt and were profitable," Stowe said. "And in that single year, it set us back that entire decade."
The Foresters, however, did play a shortened 2020 season independent of the California Collegiate League. Christina Songer, president of the Foresters' board of directors, said this year would be easier compared to last year.
"There was so many unknowns last year," Songer said, adding that everything "changed hour to hour." This included participating in the league, the league canceling, rescheduling their entire season and adjusting health protocols as the season progressed.
"Anything they throw at us, I feel like we can tackle after last year," Songer said.
For the teams, a new factor this season was assigning players host families for the season based on whether families prefer lodging a vaccinated or unvaccinated player.
"If they have been vaccinated, and we have a host family that would prefer a player that's vaccinated, then we will place them with them first," Songer said.
Stowe said three Blues out of 35 do not intend to be vaccinated upon their arrival in San Luis Obispo, while Songer said the Foresters are still finding out which players are and are not vaccinated.
But both clubs are hoping to welcome fans back in their respective stadiums this year, in line with state and local regulations.
"I am really looking forward to seeing smiles again and seeing neighbors be able to sit down — that haven't been able to see each other in two years — and talk," Stowe said.
The Blues begin their season June 11, while the Foresters open their season June 17.