After a long spring of doubt, uncertainty and frustration, Nevada head softball coach John Bass instantly had two words come to mind last Wednesday — words that will soon be music to the ears of everyone involved with summer sports in Iowa.

“Play Ball!”

On Wednesday, summer sports were given the go-ahead by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and approved by both the Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.

“I’m very excited and can’t wait to be out there coaching our athletes again and seeing them supported by their friends and families,” Bass said. “This means a lot to everyone as it is the beginning of the road back to normalcy. Hopefully it will boost morale for everyone.”

COVID-19 shutdown schools all across the country during the spring. High school baseball and softball for the 2019-20 school year were done.

Except in Iowa.

Iowa is the only state with sanctioned high school baseball and softball in the summer. Leaving it with a golden opportunity.

“We knew that someone would have to be the guinea pig, as it were, on how to resume playing sports,” Roland-Story softball coach Amber Doyle said. “I have been hopeful we would get to play, but truly uncertain up until the decision.”

Many schools have already given the green light to baseball and softball. But there are still plenty of hurdles that need to be cleared before athletes can take the field for their first practice on June 1.

“From that standpoint of a coach inside the fences, we are going to have to try and work three or four weeks of practice into only two weeks,” Gilbert baseball coach Jeremy Eldred said. “I am lucky enough to have a team of hard working players that have been doing stuff on their own — never losing hope on the season.”

Some schools are still in the process of deciding if they feel it’s safe enough to field a team. Parents must decide if they want their children to play.

“As always families need to do what they think is best for them,” Roland-Story baseball coach Chris Hill said. “There isn’t a school in the state that would purposely try and put kids in harm’s way. No one family’s situation is alike and there probably will be families that have concerns. If their concerns weigh heavy enough and they choose to not take part in baseball or softball then that decision should be supported and respected by all.”

With the date of the first games set for June 15, schools face shortened schedules. They also must follow COVID-19 safety guidelines set out for the players and fans by the Iowa Department of Education.

“It will be an adjustment,” Colo-NESCO softball coach Candace Sutton said. “Practices will look different, games will look different. But I’ll take that challenge and work through it if it allows players to play.”

Those safety guidelines will be laid out in full by the IHSAA and IGHSAU next week.

Players at schools that have already approved of having a summer season can’t wait to start taking batting practice and fielding grounders.

“Knowing parents and players from both our community as well as surrounding communities, I know there was a lot of hope that summer sports would be allowed to happen,” Collins-Maxwell baseball coach Jason Hasbrouck said. “Especially for senior players that didn’t get the full experience of spring sports, prom, normal graduation, etc. It at least gives them an opportunity for a little normalcy to close their high school careers.”

It may take some time to get used to the new guidelines and shortened schedules. But to those playing and coaching the game, it will be more than worth it.

“I know that there are still a lot of guidelines that we have to put in place and I know there is still going to be some trepidation and that is to be expected,” Colo-NESCO baseball coach Brandon Frohwein said. “But as I type this sentence I am thinking of the line from ‘Field of Dreams’ where Terence (Mann) is in the bleachers. … ‘People will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children longing for the past.’”

“I think people will come to games and enjoy baseball in Iowa with proper social distancing and appropriate guidelines,” Frohwein said. “They miss the game they love.”