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College baseball players find a summer home in O’Fallon, Mo.


College baseball players find a summer home in O’Fallon, Mo.

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Joe Lincoln became a baseball coach with a team but no opponents when the Prospect League announced that it would not be operating this summer.

The O’Fallon Hoots are a new member of that league, having formed to fill the void left at CarShield Field when the River City Rascals were disbanded last fall. But the Hoots suddenly had no one to put on the schedule.

So, Lincoln and general manager David Schmoll decided to form their own summer league for college players.

The result is the CarShield Collegiate League, which will have six teams. Each will play 30, seven-inning games between July 1 and Aug. 14 at the stadium in O’Fallon, Mo.

“When we first made the decision we decided on four teams,” said Lincoln, who is the director of player development at Missouri State. “Within 36 hours I called Dave and asked if there was any way we could do six teams. In the first 48 hours I was on the phone for about 40 hours.”

Those six teams have nearly been filled with college players from the area. To make the most of field availability, games will be played as doubleheaders, and in a few cases tripleheaders.

Each roster will have 22 or 23 players, giving at least 130 area athletes, ranging from junior college to Division I, a chance to play.

“We basically pivoted from operating a team to operating a league,” Schmoll said. “We saw we had an opportunity to still be able to have fans and provide players in the region a place to play. Players and fans are still looking for baseball and something to do outside.”

Interest has been high in part because other leagues also have been canceled for the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cape Cod League announced it will take the year off, and the Northwoods League was delayed.

Four coaches have been hired and the league had nearly enough players as of Monday to fill all of the teams. Once the player pool is finalized, the athletes will be distributed with the intent of creating competitive balance.

“We can’t make one team better than the others,” Lincoln said. “So, we’re compiling what we need (by position), and then we’ll go through and distribute the players as evenly as we possibly can.”

The decision to move forward came with the responsibility of keeping things safe for athletes and spectators.

Schmoll said the stadium will allow a maximum of 25% capacity. Some rows and seats will not be accessible to keep non-family members from sitting close to each other.

Players will arrive at the stadium in their uniforms and will not have access to showers after games. The locker room areas will be off limits, and dugouts will be cleaned between games.

“We’re preparing for whatever guidelines are in place at the time,” Schmoll said. “We have a full itemized plan.”

Players are being added essentially on a first-come, first-served basis as long as they qualify as someone having college eligibility remaining. Lincoln hopes teams will be able to have at least a few days for workouts prior to the first games.

But regardless of the level of preparation, it appears there will be baseball for fans in the St. Charles area.

“It turned out to be different than expected but it’s worth it,” Lincoln said. “Guys have been out of baseball since March and just want to play. I had people looking out for me when I played, so I’m here for these kids, even if I don’t know them.”

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