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Acadiana Cane Cutters general manager Ricky VanAsselberg said his players know how important it is to follow coronavirus protocols for the league's viability this summer. 

The sports world has been turned upside down since the middle of March, so it only makes sense the Acadiana Cane Cutters’ 10th season as part of the Texas Collegiate League will be unlike any other.

The summer baseball league opened its season Tuesday night — including Acadiana playing Victoria at Fabacher Field — in five different sites with numerous changes for TCL fans to be aware of, ranging from new destinations to in-game coronavirus contingency plans.

For starters, the league expanded this season, now up to 10 after adding a few unused minor league parks to the schedule because the minor league baseball season being canceled.

In the North Division, there’s the Amarillo Sod Dogs, Amarillo Sod Squad, Tulsa Drillers, Texarkana Twins and Frisco RoughRiders, while joining the Cane Cutters in the South Division are the Brazos Valley Bombers, Victoria Generals, Round Rock Hairy Men and San Antonio Flying Chanclas.

The new 30-game schedule will include 15 home games with teams primarily playing division clubs, except for one team from the other division. That means the Cutters will be able to play in top-notch affiliated ball parks in Round Rock and San Antonio. Acadiana’s North opponent is Texarkana.

Another chance is all TCL games this year will be available to stream. The link to access the broadcast is on the Cane Cutters team website.

All the stadiums must adhere to coronavirus social-distancing seating requirements, including skipping aisles to help separate fans, and masks and sanitizer are available.

“Obviously it’s a different situation,” Cane Cutters owner Richard Chalmers said. “We’re having to do a lot of different things — dot a lot of ‘I’s and cross a lot of ‘t’s.

“We’re excited, but there will be some different things going on driven by the current environment. I’m sure everybody’s going to cooperate and going to understand what we’re faced with.”

Chalmers said he really got the message how different the season will be when he began getting flooded with phone calls for players interested in playing in the TCL this summer because many summer leagues were canceled this year.

Chalmers said his team elected to primarily stick with its normal feeder programs and areas, but at least one league member chose a unique method.

“One team in existing … 52 players tried out with an intrasquad series trying to not to miss out on some of those guys I was talking about from some of these other leagues and other schools,” Chalmers said.

As for the actual games, there will be noticeable changes on the field as well. For one, Cutters manager Ricky VanAsselberg said all the players in the league will have to develop new celebration techniques.

“There are a lot of things that we’re going to have to change,” VanAsselberg said. “For example, we’re not going to be able to chest bump and hug and do all that. It’s going to be tough, because everybody’s going to be excited. If somebody hits a three-run homer to win it, I don’t know how you control 30 20-year-olds, but I’ll do my best.

“But I’ll tell you right now that some of them are about 6-foot-5 and about 260 (pounds). I guess I’ll have to threaten to fine them like in pro ball I guess.”

After months of waiting, however, perhaps some changes can be endured.

“Everybody knows how important getting to play is,” VanAsselberg said. “We’re one of the few leagues that’s getting to play. I think everybody’s being real cautious because of that. The last thing we want is for something to happen and us to not get to play. They’ve done a real good job.”

While precautions will be emphasized, none of the Cane Cutters players interviewed at Monday’s media day considered not playing this summer because of coronavirus concerns.

“Absolutely not,” Southeastern’s Jacob Burke said. “I think we intended to play as long as we could.

“None of us have ever had this much off time, this much time away from the sport. I know a lot of guys grew up in high school playing multiple sports and sometimes you finish up a season on one day and the next day you start up with another sport. It was the weirdest time. I know we’re all ready to get back. Whenever we can play, just tell us when and where and we’ll be there.”

Louisiana Tech shortstop Logan McLeod did admit the transition could be more rugged than some anticipate.

“It was crazy having five months off,” McLeod said. “Everybody’s just trying to get better. It’s hard to get out there and get ground balls and have live ABs and have a game-like feel. We’ve been spending a lot of time in the weight room over the last five months. It’s a lot different trying to transfer that to the field. So to get this opportunity to play 30-something games is just unreal. It’s exciting.”

Like in all sports, the future remains a mystery in this coronavirus era, but Chalmers is hopeful for a successful 10th season nonetheless.

“I think everybody has some concerns,” he said. “We’re not the Major Leagues. We don’t have TV contracts and that sort of thing. We’re all concerned, but we’re all taking measures that we’re asked to do. So I have to feel like it’s going to work out.”


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.