Summer sports leagues take extra precautions

Summer sports leagues take extra precautions
The fields remain vacant at Bear Creek Sports Park in Hannibal as the Little League baseball and softball seasons have been pushed back to June.
Mike Thomas/Courier-Post
By Mike Thomas
Courier-Post Sports Editor
Posted: May. 22, 2020 9:53 am Updated: May. 22, 2020 9:57 am

As the stay-at-home order has been lifted, local agencies are trying to navigate summer sports leagues safely for all those involved.

For leagues giving the green light to play ball; extra precautions such as extra cleaning of dugouts, removal of bleachers for spectators and a prohibition of high fives have been implemented.

“One of the rules is all they can do is tip their hats across the field to each other,” said Bear Creek Sports Park executive director Larry Pickett. “They can't do high fives, knuckles or any of that stuff.”

Bear Creek Sports Park is one of the few youth summer baseball and softball leagues that will play games this summer. Practices would normally start at the beginning of April, but will not begin until the first of June this year.

Prior to practices beginning on June 1, teams will sign up for scheduled times to practice to guard against overcrowding the fields.

From there, Bear Creek Sports Park youth softball and baseball teams will play eight games, with the tentative end date of the season to be in mid-July.

“Nobody's really canceling out, so I would assume all the parents are excited about it,” Pickett said. “Because kids are going to be able to get out and do something, instead of being all locked up in their houses.”

Pickett said there have only been a couple of parents pull their kids out of the league so far.

“A lot of them are worried about (the season) starting late, and they are worried about their kid playing soccer or football, and playing baseball into that season,” Pickett said. “So they would rather have them playing soccer or football than baseball.”

Bear Creek Sports Park had to postpone their April and May baseball and softball tournaments, but has several tournaments scheduled for the summer.

“We have two fairly good sized tournaments in June, a baseball and softball tournament,” Pickett said. “Most of them we are putting on now, so it will be tournaments to help the ballpark make a little money to keep afloat the rest of the year.”

For other local communities, youth baseball and softball has been canceled or limited.

The Mark Twain Area Baseball and Softball Association has decided to cancel the 2020 season. Normally, the league would include Little League teams from Center, Hannibal, Monroe City, New London, Palmyra, Paris, Perry and Shelbina.

Palmyra Parks and Recreation director Doug Meyers said Palmyra is only going to offer the coach pitch town league this season.

“We made the decision from the beginning to err on the side of caution and make sure it is safe,” Meyers said. “There's just so much unknown right now for us to organize leagues and hire staff when everything is going week by week.”

Palmyra has baseball and softball tournaments scheduled for the summer, and for now the Parks and Recreation Department is leaving them on the calendar if they already rented the fields.

The Palmyra coach pitch league is for four and five-year old kids and is tentatively scheduled to begin in early July.

Meyers said parents would be responsible for supplying helmets and other equipment for the kids, and the concession stand would be limited to prepackaged items.

“We are going to move all of our bleachers and picnic tables, so the spectators will have to bring lawn chairs to watch and go by the social distancing standards,” Meyers said. “We will have a minimum of kids (allowed) in the dugouts. The rest will be down the fence lines.”

Meyers said the Palmyra Parks and Recreation Department has been in contact with the local health department and the city's insurance company to formulate a plan on how to go forward.

“A lot of our revenue comes from our rental facilities and youth sports, and we haven't had anything since March,” Meyers said. “We are starting off our new fiscal year with that in mind. It's how are we going to hire normal staff to prep the field and run the concession stands, plus extra staff to clean and sanitize?”

The Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department went ahead and gave the YMCA of Hannibal permission to begin sand volleyball, softball and youth soccer this summer.

The youth soccer season will begin on June 10 and will be limited to one field and one game at a time. Softball league will be on Wednesday night and the rec league will take place on Thursday night.

The sand volleyball league is for kids ages 11 through 14 with a cost of $55 per team. The season will begin on June 1. The YMCA will also offer a rec night for sand volleyball on Tuesdays.

“Parents are happy that I'm running sports,” said YMCA sports director Nathan Waters. “Everyday I'm getting a phone asking if we are going to have sand volleyball or softball, and I just got the (permission this Tuesday) we are going to get to have it all.”

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