OKOTOKS -- The coaches are all wearing masks, the groups are smaller and everyone is physically distancing, but the Okotoks Dawgs Academy is able to step back onto the baseball diamond again. 

It’s been more than two months since the Dawgs, along with all minor sports organizations across Alberta, were ordered to shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

“We’re real grateful to be back out here,” says Alejandro Cazorla Granados, a third-year player with the Dawgs Academy. “A couple reps at the start felt a little rusty, but we got it back. It feels amazing.”

On Tuesday, players were again able to stretch, field balls and go through batting practice as part of the province’s gradual relaunch.

Coaches were holding virtual workouts during the shutdown, but Tuesday was the first time players were able to be back on the field since March.

The organization submitted its proposal to reopen weeks ago and received the go-ahead from provincial and municipal officials Monday afternoon.

“It’s showing that the town is open,” said Angela Groeneveld, the economic development manger for the Town of Okotoks.

“The economic impact when a large association like this reopens is definitely there. This was the right thing to do."

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, tweeted Monday that sports teams are able to practice outside again, as long as they’re following proper health measures. The province will release more guidelines for sports teams by the end of the week. Hinshaw wrote.

“We have six feet of distance, we sanitize everything, we have a checklist for all of our players to take to make sure they haven’t been in contact with people with COVID,” said Dawgs general manager Tyler Hollick.

The players back on the field are all part of the Dawgs Academy, a year-round development program for baseball players between 11 and 18 years old.

The Dawgs’ collegiate team plays in the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL), which is made up of 10 teams from across Alberta and Saskatchewan. The WCBL postponed its season indefinitely due to gathering and travel restrictions. 

The league will meet Wednesday to decide whether or not to proceed with its 2020 season.