When the coronavirus shutdown first hit youth sports leagues, those in charge knew it was going to be a challenge to provide any type of competition due to financial restraints and health guidelines even if the state allowed play to resume.
Despite some of those concerns, the Tallassee Dixie Youth Baseball League did not hesitate when it got released to return to the field.
“As a board, we had a lot of conversations each week on if and how we would get back to it,” commissioner Abe Rigsby said. “We were pretty excited about it. There were some concerns about being able to do it based off the guidelines but to finally get a decision just one way or the other was a relief.”
Rigsby said the biggest reason the league has pulled off a return to the field was because of the excitement from players and their families and their willingness to still play baseball. There was always a concern about whether parents would feel comfortable with their children returning to play, and other hurdles had to be overcome, like family vacations already scheduled. That being said, Rigsby was pleasantly surprised to see the turnouts during the first week of practice.
“The response we got form the community was positive,” Rigsby said. “We probably have about 75 to 80% of the kids that have come back. Everyone has been supportive. There are people who aren’t comfortable with it and that’s definitely fine. We understand that. But we’re also excited for those that came back just as a way to get the kids outside and active again.”
Now the league has started back and games allowed to resume Monday, the next step is making sure to create a safe environment for the players and the spectators to limit exposure as much as possible.
“Since practice has started, we have communicated to parents and to the kids to try to keep their distance as best as they could,” Rigsby said. “We are going to have all the signage we can just to reiterate keeping your distance. From a dugout perspective, we are giving the parents an option on their kids staying in the dugout between being in the field or being outside the fence to help maintain the distance. The coaches are in charge of keeping everyone as separate as possible in there.”
Some leagues will not have to worry about keeping their players distanced from each other but unfortunately, that silver lining comes only because their seasons have been canceled outright. The Tallassee Babe Ruth Baseball league and the Tallassee Youth Softball League will not have games this summer due to the impact of the season being shut down in March.
“We started out by asking how many people would be willing to come back and participate,” softball commissioner Jaiton Stephens said. “We saw other leagues having to cancel theirs and our participation was just not there. It hurt for me to even bring up to the board to vote on this. I could see where it was going and we didn’t think it would have been beneficial. It was not going to be beneficial to the park and more importantly it wasn’t going to be beneficial to the girls.”
Due to the lack of numbers, Stephens said the league originally planned to just cut down on the number of teams at each age group which meant the need to have competition between other local leagues. However, when Wetumpka and Eclectic made decisions to cancel their leagues, Tallassee did not have much choice.
Despite the competitions being canceled, Stephens said he is hoping the park and league can help orchestrate different ways to keep the players active on a softball field throughout the summer. He even mentioned the possibility of holding free softball camps in July to give the girls a chance to play a little softball without having to take the whole year off.
“That’s going to be discussed very heavily going forward,” Stephens said. “We’ve got a great community. We left a lot of it open for the coaches to tell them if they wanted to come up and practice with their team, they could. If you want to go practice with a couple of kids, let everyone know. We want to do what we can to keep these girls active.”