COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Lexington County Blowfish are preparing to welcome back fans to their stadium for a game on Wednesday, July 15th game after the Lexington County Council passed a resolution supporting the Blowfish beginning to have games again with spectators.
“We look forward to seeing moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas and kids to come out to the ballpark,” Bill Shanahan, the co-owner of the Blowfish, said. “To go and just have a good time. We are all looking for ways to be together, especially in this terrible health crisis that we are in.”
This decision comes exactly two weeks after what would have been the blowfish’s first home game with fans in the stadium on July 1st.
On July 1st, just hours before the game was set to begin Governor Henry McMaster was asked about whether the Blowfish were allowed to have spectators at their gams. He responded that “spectator sports” are not allowed under the executive order still in place and that those violating the order would face a consequence of some kind.
Bill Shanahan said the next few hours were extremely heartbreaking and chaotic as the Blowfish tried to contact Governor McMaster’s office for clarification, because they were not aware that having fans at their game violate the emergency order, and having to tell the fans that had bought tickets to the game that they would not be allowed to enter the stadium.
“Opening night is always so special and you can’t wait to open the doors,” Shanahan said. “And then we are in a situation and all chaos is breaking loose, and we are hearing that a reporter asked a question and the Governor responded a certain way and next thing you know, everything is going haywire.”
On Tuesday night, in a presentation before the Lexington County Council that he believes the Blowfish has been misclassified by Governor McMaster. He said that the Blowfish are an amateur youth team playing at a commissioned facility by Lexington County. Further, he argued that the Blowfish had been singled out, while other similar amateur baseball teams across the state have been allowed to continue having games with spectators over the last two weeks.
During the presentation, Bill Shanahan also went through a set of guidelines and safety procedures that the stadium has implemented to make sure fans can safely watch games during the pandemic, including only allowing 800 fans to enter into the 2400 capacity stadium.
Shanahan ended his presentation, asking that the Lexington County Council to help, saying that the future of the Blowfish in Columbia is at stake if fans are not allowed to attend games.
In a huge show of support, the Lexington County Council presented a resolution that passed unanimously saying that the county supports the Blowfish having spectators at the facility.
“We are very touched by the support, the unanimous support, and the emotion that came in those remarks,” Bill Shanahan said.
Bill Shanahan said they are excited to welcome back families to the Blowfish Stadium tomorrow night for their home game. He said that they support Governor McMaster, but believe that the Blowfish has been improperly labeled and therefore should be allowed to have spectators.
Tomorrow night the blowfish will play the lake Murray purple marlins at the stadium at 7 p.m.
In contrast to the Blowfish, it’s been nearly a month since amateur youth and recreational sports were allowed to pick back up with playing games. McMaster’s order stated that “effective June 15th, 2020 youth sports organizers and recreation departments may begin holding games and similar competitions, with or without spectators”.
However, the rules and timelines for Little league games in each county can vary, creating confusion for family and fans wanting to attend.
“I think unfortunately a lot of the announcements and ordinances are written are vague and they do cause a lot of confusion,” Kelley Hunt, a Trenholm Little League parent and the President of Trenholm Little League said.
McMaster’s order allows little league games to have spectators, but Little Leagues must also coordinate with their counties, which might have stricter rules.
Hunt said the Richland County Recreation Commission wasn’t allowing fans at the Trenholm Little League games until this week.
“Up until Friday we were only allowing parents that were volunteers, helping us do the social distancing to be at the games,” Hunt said
But some coaches and parents tell WIS that hasn’t been the case at the travel tournaments happening in the Midlands. Hunt said that she went to one travel tournament in which there weren’t many fans, but has heard that other tournaments have been larger.
“I know there’s been a lot of talk about the number of spectators and the groupings there,” Hunt said.
However. Hunt said that at their games, implementing social distancing and safety measures hasn’t been a problem.
She said all the players are spaced out 6ft apart on the bleachers, a volunteer disinfects the balls multiple times each inning, and only players are allowed in the dugout at once.
“As a parent, I like it, I need my kids outside, I need them getting the fresh air,” Hunt said.