MOUNT VERNON — Like everything else, spring youth baseball and softball has taken a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting guidelines. Even though parks and businesses are opening up soon, many communities in the area and around the state have already canceled spring ball and some are focusing on their fall season. A few, however, have not given up on salvaging a spring season. That includes some area and local teams.
For Mount Vernon Baseball Association (MVBA) president Austin Goetzman, the hope in still there, but the window of opportunity appears to be shrinking.
“At this point, we haven’t made the decision yet,” Goetzman said. “Obviously, we know that the governor is opening things up, but we are looking at what our local health department guidelines will be.”
There is much to consider. There is the wearing of masks, setting limits on how many players can be in the dugout and the spacing of spectators. sometimes there is more than players and fans would want to think about.
“We have to get in contact with our insurance to make sure that, if something were to happen, that insurance would cover it,” Goetzman said.
There will be the matter of whether coaches or players on the sidelines must wear masks.
“Obviously, if (the governor) changes that, it will change some things, but there are other issues,” Goetzman. “If someone gets COVID and they show up at the park, everybody that was at the park that day might have to go home and and self-quarantine for two weeks. They can’t even go to work. They can’t leave the house.”
That would also mean that all of the teams on the field that day would not be able to play for virtually half of the already-shortened season. Then there is the question of who contacts the players and spectators who were in the park on a certain day in order to inform them they were possibly exposed to the coronavirus. The MVBA will have a meeting late Thursday and should have some decisions made by Friday.
On Monday, the Mount Vernon Babe Ruth announced that they were canceling their spring season altogether. The Babe Ruth League, which draws players from the area high schools, saw their season plans freeze when schools were shut down back in March, due to the coronavirus.
“Babe Ruth doesn’t have their uniforms ordered and doesn’t even have tryouts done,” said Mount Vernon Babe Ruth president Bart Stevens. “It’s just too late. Normally, Babe Ruth does not start until mid May, but we have everything in line because of high school ball. So, it was put on hold before we even got tryouts or team sponsors or anything. Trying to put that together this late, you’re going to have high school football and you’re going to have kids not able to play because they have conditioning and things like that. At this point, I think it’s just time to say cancel the season.”
The softball leagues are facing the same decisions. Cody Howard, president of Howard Youth Softball, saw the spring league season canceled, along with Mount Vernon and Danville earlier this month, but he is still looking for a way to salvage the season. Howard, who coaches the 8U girls squad, is a coach in search of an opponent or a tournament.
“Right now, we’re just trying to weigh our options and come together to see of we can work something out, to get some playing time for the girls,” Howard said. “The parents of the age group that I coach are very interested in trying to make something happen.”
The numbers were not as strong in the other age groups to try to salvage their seasons, but Howard and his 8U team is still looking for a chance. So is Joe Beaubien of Utica Youth Baseball and Softball.
“We are trying our best,” Beaubien said. “We are not canceling and we trying our best to have a season.”
As far as what that salvaged season would look like, it’s too soon to say.
“Not sure yet,” Beaubien said, “We’re trying to see who all is waiting to play and go from there.”
The Highland Youth Softball Organization (HYSO) continues to look for competition.
“We reached out to Big Walnut and asked if we could join their league (temporarily for this spring),” said HYSO president Michelle Croy. “We are still anticipating playing the Big Walnut organization — whatever that may comprise of now. I spoke to the (Big Walnut) president and they are under the same situation we are with fields, because the school owns the fields. That means unless the ban is not lifted by (Governor DeWine) by June 30, we are going to be waiting until June 30th to start the season.”
Croy is hoping to have some answers from Big Walnut by the end of this week.
Fredericktown softball decided to cancel its season on Monday.
“Part of the problem was that Highland only had a couple of teams that could play and all of the other organizations around us canceled their seasons,” said Fredericktown Girls Softball League president Don Hughes. “Highland only had a 13U team and a 16U team and we don’t have a 16U team. There’s nobody else to play. We actually had great response from our parents. About 95% of our players and parents were bound to keep playing, but there’s nobody to play.”
Fredericktown baseball is looking at implementing a 5-week season, starting practice June 1. The games would run from June 15 through July 18.
“We are working out the things that the government wants us to do to be safe,” said Fredericktown Youth Baseball president Jeff Dickerson. “Once we work that out, we can hand it to the parents so they know exactly what is to be expected and what we are expecting of them as well. We are going through this as a board, and we are going to submit an action plan to our local health department. We want to keep them in the loop as much as possible as to what we are doing.”
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