“Initially the date we could begin was June 14,” said Burke Richeson the President of the board for Plymouth Junior League. “As they opened up level 3 on May 22 the governor was asked if little leagues could begin play and he gave his consent. We went to the board and they were in favor.”
The Plymouth Junior League will be fielding a full complement of teams in the various levels of play as well as their normal travel squads at each level.
“We actually have a really high turn out this year,” said League President Burke Richeson. “We’ve really given the parents the ability to make their own decision. Its a real balancing game but if parents decide they don’t want their child to participate that is perfectly fine and if they’ve paid any fees they will be refunded no problem. We also want to offer parents the choice if they want to participate. They can make their own choice.”
Offering that choice comes with the responsibility to provide as much expectation of safety as possible.
“We’ve taken all the recommendations and guidelines from the Health Department and been researching and looking into what other leagues around the country are doing,” said Richeson. “Obviously we’ve looked at our liability insurance, and are getting a handle on how other leagues are approaching safety for their kids.”
“We’ve made it clear to our coaches that we can’t come together in huddles or have the ‘hands in’ thing,” said Richeson. “There won’t be any players in the dugouts, right now with just practices all the equipment will be kept along the fence out of the dugout and we aren’t using any team equipment like catchers gear right now.”
Once games start the dugout ban will remain in effect with some modification.
“We’ve identified at each of the parks green space away from the dugout that can act as an ‘open air’ dugout,” he said. “We are going to work with the park department to get some snow fence out to mark off the area and places for them to stand and put their equipment will be marked.”
It will also bring a change in the logistics of the game.
“We are asking coaches to find a parent to designate to sort of be in charge of that dugout area,” said Richeson. “The coaches will still be able to watch the game from the dugout, but when teams are hitting they will have a batter, an on-deck hitter, and a hitter waiting in the dugout.”
T-ball presents a unique problem.
“It’s going to be different but we are asking kids when their team is hitting to go and sit with their parents until it’s their turn,” said Richeson. “It may give us some challenges finding kids from time to time when it’s their turn to hit.”
Away from the game, there will be changes as well.
“We are going to have waiting areas marked off for teams that are up next to play so we don’t have everyone milling around together,” said Richeson. “We’ll have one set of teams leave and then the others will come in.”
“So far as fans go, we are going to do all we can to encourage the six feet distance,” he said. “Maybe for this year families want to limit who attendees will be and maybe not bring everybody out every night. We are also going to ask parents to take their child’s temperature at home before coming to the game and if they are running a fever contact the coach and let them know and then have them checked by your doctor so we can be sure that they can come back to play safely. ”
“In the concession stand we’ll have lines clearly marked similar to what there is at the grocery store,” said Richeson. “We’ve made the decision to limit open-air food and just serve things that are in packages. We’ll have the workers in masks and gloves and we are having the booths measured to fit plexiglass shields being put in.”
The league has also addressed the shared equipment issue.
“We’ve purchased a special disinfectant spray that you spray on and leave it on for 15-20 minutes and supposedly it keeps the equipment clear for up to 90 days,” said Richeson. “We are still going to have an 80 percent alcohol solution on hand to spray everything down after every use.”
“We have been kicking around things like maybe not even using a catcher for the younger leagues, what that would look like, what it would do to the game,” he said. “Right now we are going to mandate that only one player per game on each team use that equipment. We’ve been discussing what happens if a player gets injured do you have to continue without a catcher? In C-League we are also going to go with ‘coach/umpires’ this year. Clearly having somebody outside the game is probably better but this will make for less contact.”
The high turn out leaves the league with a good problem.
“Our teams are close to full right now,” said Richeson. “We try to keep our team numbers right around 12-14 kids to make sure that everybody has a chance to play as much as possible. We even have some other communities who decided not to play bringing teams to Plymouth this year. I know that Culver was putting together a team.”
“Our board is one that isn’t going to turn any kid away. We are going to do everything that we can to be sure any kid that wants to play baseball can play.”