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Baseball COVID-19

Area Code Games Relocates, Plans SoCal Return in 2021

Every August, a large contingent of the best high school baseball players in the country converge on Bohl Diamond at Blair Field for the prestigious Area Code Games. Founded in 1987, the Area Code Games hosts a yearly showcase for high school baseball talent from across the country, giving them the chance to play for a full week in front of hundreds of Major League Baseball scouts and college coaches.

The Area Code Games moved to Blair Field in 1995, where it has provided a platform for hundreds of future big leaguers to showcase their talents in Long Beach. However, the ongoing pandemic has forced the 2020 Area Code Games to relocate, pushing the event to the LakePoint Baseball Complex in Atlanta from August 7-10.

Kirsten Leetch, Director of Area Code Baseball, said she and her team looked at several variables before arriving at their decision to move the games. There were plans to possibly delay the games until late as Labor Day Weekend, and they visited several possible locations all across the country before deciding on LakePoint. The event does carry inherent risk, but the facility is actually located about 40 miles north of Downtown Atlanta in Cartersville, Georgia, where the spread of the pandemic is more controlled.

“It’s not ideal, and even when we made the decision we were nervous about what was happening in Georgia,” Leetch explained. “But LakePoint is in a calmer area and there’s not as many cases in that area, and everyone is playing baseball. In Texas, these kids are traveling all over for tournaments, they are already doing this, so we kind of had to get out of our bubble on this and go for it.”

In order to limit overcrowding, games will not be played back-to-back as in years past, and teams will be playing just four games each instead of the usual five. Leetch also pointed out that there will be additional safety measures at the facility, which features eight all-weather baseball diamonds. Major League teams will be limited to sending just three scouts per organization to help with social distancing, and players have been asked to limit the number of family members making the trip as well. Leetch said that the players have been all-in on the event, and everyone that’s been invited plans on attending.

“We’re just stoked to be able to get it in because we know there’s so few scouting opportunities for the top players to come together in one place,” Leetch said. “It’s a valuable event for kids to play at a high level against other kids that are at a high level, and where scouts can come and evaluate these kids on an even ground. So we’re just stoked we can still get that going for these kids.”

Historically, those opportunities have occurred in the California sunshine, which is still the plan moving forward, according to Leetch.

“It’s going to be in Southern California,” Leetch responded, when asked about the plan for next year’s games. “Where specifically it’s going to be, I don’t know, but we’ll be back in Southern California in August 2021 … The allure of the weather and the beach and the things to do on the West Coast, that’s what makes it the event what it is. That’s what makes it so awesome.”

As the operators of Bohl Diamond at Blair Field, Long Beach State is prepared to welcome Area Code Games back to Long Beach with open arms, according to the university’s Athletic Director, Andy Fee.

“The Area Code Games are a phenomenal event for the city,” Fee said. “For Bohl Diamond at Blair Field to host such a prestigious junior event to get some of the best in the country here playing on our home field certainly is a way to showcase what the Dirtbags are all about, and obviously our coaches have the luxury of not having to go far to watch some of the best. It would be my hope to work with Area Code Games to have them return in the summer of 2021. We certainly appreciate having them here, they bring a lot to the city, and if we can make it work in 2021 we’ll certainly do that.”

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Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.