We’ll have to wait another summer to meet the Tri-City Chili Peppers, but baseball is coming to Shepherd Stadium, starting on Thursday.
With some COVID-19 related restrictions being lifted in Virginia, and the NCAA recruiting dead period extended until July 31, Shepherd Stadium will host the Tri-City Tourneys –– a series of high school showcase tournaments over the next several weekends.
The Tri-City Chili Peppers were planning to play their first season as a member of the Coastal Plain League this summer but announced on June 10 that their inaugural season would be delayed until 2021.
“It just kind of worked out,” Chili Peppers General Manager Steve Taggart said. “We’re going to be able to do these games, and really, it saves travel baseball a bit.”
Per Coastal Plain League rules, the Chili Peppers were required to have cameras set up to livestream their games. They have the equipment ready, and all of the tournament games will be streamed live for coaches who can’t attend, and family members who want to see their athlete in action. Taggart, who has a background in live TV production, will be running most of those controls.
The first weekend of the tournament has come up quickly, with its social media page launching on Monday. To help run everything, 20-25 of the interns who were hired to work for the Chili Peppers will now take care of tasks like operating the scoreboard and announcing.
Another job will be working at the entrance. Family members will be allowed in, and when they approach the gate, someone will record their name and they’ll receive a wristband indicating they are approved to enter. A limited number of passes will be sold to the general public.
“We’re not going to prevent families from coming out and seeing their kids play in these tournaments,” Taggart said. “But we will be keeping track of those families coming in and then limiting the number of the general public who come in.”
Taggert says there should be enough seating capacity to accommodate all of the fans and allow them to adhere to social distancing. There will also be reminders posted around the stadium, and they will limit the number of people allowed in the restroom at a time.
The games will follow showcase rules, meaning they will end after seven innings, or an hour and 45 minutes, whichever comes first. This weekend, teams will mostly be local, but over the course of the next six weeks, Taggert is expecting teams from Maryland and Pennsylvania to make their way to Colonial Heights, VA.
We didn’t just want to sit around all summer and do nothing,” Taggert said.