MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Baseball is back, at least at the Little League level.

Monday night in Hamel, boys between the ages of 9 and 12 played their first games of the season.

Hamel Little League is about three months behind right now, and they have about half the normal amount of players. But none of that seemed to matter on “Opening Day.” And no one is happier than player Connor Rouen.

“I was pretty disappointed and sad we couldn’t play right away, because I love baseball and it’s so fun,” Rouen said.

Coach Noah Rouen says this was a long time coming.

“We’ve spent a lot of time, hours and energy trying to figure out how to get to this day,” Coach Rouen said.

Field number 4 at Legion Park was one of the fields in play. It has new sod, a new fence, and new rules for an old game.

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“Every kid has their own helmet, own bat, and they aren’t allowed to share equipment, gloves, that sort of thing,” Rouen said.

Teams provided their own baseballs when they were on defense. Hand sanitizer and social distancing are now as important as hitting the cutoff man. Player Vince Scherer says it’s been tough when he and his teammates make a great play.

“I think it’s necessary, but it’s hard not to give your friend a fist pound or a high five on the way back to the dugout,” Scherer said.

But baseball is a game of patience, and these kids have waited long enough. No matter the score, there were no losers Monday night.

“If I could, I would do this all day long” Scherer said.

The teams will play until the end of the month, and they’re hoping to get about 12 games in, with a tournament at the end of the season.

“There is no Little League World Series this year, but we are going to win the Hamel championship for our Little League World Series this year,” Coach Rouen said.

They are also only using one umpire instead of two, and the umpire now stands behind the pitcher’s mound and not the catcher.

John Lauritsen