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50th anniversary at Rogers Park: Please respect each other’s space

A state tournament during a global pandemic will require a lot of patience, understanding

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Marshalltown baseball team members in masks talk to each other before a game earlier this season.

The first pitch of the state softball tournament’s 50th anniversary at Rogers Sports Complex is right around the corner.

Fittingly, Dodger all-state ace hurler Jalen Adams will throw it when homestanding FDSH opens a week that will be anything but normal with a quarterfinal contest against Bettendorf on Monday at 11 a.m. This could be an exciting stretch for the Messenger area, with the Dodgers earning the top seed in Class 5A; Newell-Fonda drawing the No. 2 seed in 1A; and both Humboldt (4th) and Algona (6th) still standing in the 3A field.

Of course, the prevailing theme will be hosting an event in the midst of a global pandemic. Remember the requests to practice respectful social distancing and civility at games during the regular season? That pressure intensifies over the next five days. Not because it’s mandatory, but because it’s the right thing to do for the greater good of everyone involved.

The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and the Fort Dodge Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department will do everything in their power to make sure teams and fans have a safe, enjoyable experience at state. This isn’t a one-way street, though. Governing bodies and officials can only do so much for a tournament that typically draws over 15,000 people to town from all corners of Iowa by the end of the week. At some point, it also becomes the responsibility of the individual to keep others in mind while visiting Fort Dodge — both at the ballpark and away from it.

Visitors are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings as they arrive, leave and spend time in the common areas. Social distancing rules apply in the bleachers, and are expected around the facility. There will be specific regulations to follow when it comes to restroom and concession-area usage.

Long story short: show common sense and be decent to and thoughtful toward each other. It’s not that difficult. The fact that we’re even having this tournament should be all the motivation we need to increase our own levels of self-awareness.

I know everyone was hoping for a bigger and better 50th anniversary celebration. It’s a landmark achievement, without question; no current state event on either the boys’ or girls’ side has been at one venue longer. A total of 875,851 fans have crossed the gates since the tournament debuted at Rogers Park in 1970.

The pomp and circumstance will be a bit subdued this time around, though. And that’s okay. We’re all trying to find a practical middle ground, enjoying some of the things we love to do in the summer while being cautious about what’s happening in the world today. So we’ll all make the best of this week, balancing the excitement and drama of championship softball with perspective and consideration to the changing world around us. Patience is a virtue.

Our award-winning staff will again go the extra mile to make this week’s Messenger sports section feels like home to everyone involved. Stories, pictures, brackets, features and social media updates are all included in our daily coverage, thanks to assistant sports editor Chris Johnson, sports writer Dana Becker, photographer Britt Kudla, and Daily Freeman-Journal sports editor Troy Banning, who thankfully offers to help us every year.

We also have an all-encompassing page on our website — under the ‘State Softball’ tab at www.messengernews.net — and a 32-page special preview in select editions of the Monday Messenger. Every qualifying school’s profile is included in the section. Kudla’s photo galleries will be available at CU.messengernews.net as well.

Our role in bringing comprehensive coverage to readers from across the state — and beyond — is one we’ve embraced for 50 consecutive years. We’re here for you and the schools you follow along the tournament trail.

As always, we’re looking forward to tracking every pitch, out and inning all week long — even as a complicated era of uncertainty swirls away from the ballpark. Stay safe, be kind, and enjoy the show!

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. Reach him via email at sports@messengernews.net, or on Twitter @MessengerSports

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