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Games will happen this summer at Melaleuca Field, but they probably won’t be Chukars baseball

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The press conference held Wednesday at Melaleuca Field.

IDAHO FALLS — The Chukars likely won’t be playing on the diamond this season, but baseball will still be happening at Melaleuca Field.

At a press conference held Wednesday at Melaleuca Field, Kevin Greene, team president and general manager, made the announcement about the Chukars’ season. The team was supposed to open its 2020 season June 19th.

Instead, the Idaho Falls Bandits — the AA American Legion team for the city of Idaho Falls — will be playing at Melaleuca Field. The Bandits won the 2019 American Legion National Championship.

“Due to COVID-19, we’re still in limbo. Major League Baseball has not determined whether or not they’re going to cancel our season or reschedule some of our games and move it to the later part of the season,” Greene said. “However, we can see the writing on the wall.”

Greene said he was thinking that 2020 would be a year full of celebration for Chukars baseball by commemorating the Pioneer League Championship they won last year and celebrating 80 years of professional affiliated baseball in Idaho Falls.

Instead, Greene is left feeling surprised that Major League Baseball hasn’t told the Chukars what’s going on.

“Everyone’s calling every day and going, ‘What’s the status of the season?’ We finally got tired of saying, ‘We don’t know.’ So we’re just saying we do know. We think the answer is there will be no season,” Greene said. “I’m very disappointed that no one has taken the time or the energy to figure out what a 2020 Minor League Baseball season might look like or not look like, and just give us an answer.”

With the Chukars calling their season a no-go, the Bandits are preparing to open their 2020 season. There are 26 games scheduled to be played at Melaleuca Field and a five-day Bandits Invitational. The players will be homegrown talent.

President Mike Whyte said they’ve expanded the league by five teams this season.

There will be six AA programs, including the Bandits, Whyte said. Local high schools, including Idaho Falls, Bonneville, Thunder Ridge, Hillcrest and Skyline will have their own individual AA and A teams. Plus, there are three B teams for players roughly 13 to 15 years old.

“We started to look at what happened to the spring and historically, you have any number of players who will play a spring season, but they will not play a summer season,” Whyte said. “We looked at that scenario and realized that there’s going to be a significant number of players that lost out. As a league, we felt we needed to do right by them.”

Bandits home schedule. | Courtesy Bandits and Chukars

Bandits Coach Ryan Alexander said this is an exciting opportunity for players who didn’t have a high school baseball season because of COVID-19.

In the past nine years, Vice President Cliff Brady said the Bandits have helped 86 players move on to play college baseball.

“(They are) some of the best baseball players in the state of Idaho, in my belief, and certainly in our area,” Alexander said.

There will also be a college baseball group that former local Bandits or current college players can participate in.

“We want to do everything we can to gain a little sense of normalcy, and normal in Idaho Falls in the summer is baseball,” Brady said.

Brady said safety precautions such as social distancing, no high-fives after games and sanitizer will be provided to teams.

The games will be broadcasted on ESPN radio. The Bandits open their season with a doubleheader June 13 beginning at 5 p.m. For more information regarding the schedule or tickets, call the Chukars at (208) 522-8363 or vist the Bandits’ website by clicking here.

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