The COVID-19 epidemic has brought the sports world to a screeching halt, disappointing players at every level, from the professionals vying for a world championship to college teams whose seniors may never see the field again, all the way down to Little League Baseball.
Steve Woodard, the president of Crown City Little League, says everything is in a holding pattern until they get the go-ahead from Williamsport.
“Little League International has implemented a temporary suspension of all Little League activities until no earlier than May 11th,” Woodard said. “Under those conditions a season would be abbreviated from the norm resulting in a reduced number of contests. We may still have the ability to run extended programs for participants not involved in All Star play.”
Woodard continued, “Our Board of Directors is committed to providing our players and families the most meaningful experience possible for all participants. If that requires us to provide extended opportunities that stretch throughout the summer we will explore those options.”
The abbreviated schedule may not allow some leagues to try and qualify for the Little League World Series, but since such a minuscule percentage of the nearly three million Little Leaguers around the world make it to Williamsport each August, the most important objective is getting the kids the experience.
“We encourage our families and players remain safe, and to adhere to the recommendation of local health and medical experts regarding social distancing,” Woodard said. “However they can stay active with simple games of catch and by engaging in some simple drills that they can find online to stay sharp.”
Homer Little League president Chris Sweeney said his league has also been encouraging players to stay active.
“We have heard many stories of kids having a game of catch in their backyards and working on individual fundamentals,” he said. “Our league has been communicating to our families via social media and encouraging our players to get outside and participate in some videos that work on the fundamentals of baseball.”
Homer Little League is also using social media to satisfy members’ baseball cravings.
“We have asked our families to get involved in posting photos of their special memories of their child playing in Homer,” Sweeney said. “We are also excited to present a special Throwback Thursday online celebrating Homer Little League of yesteryear. “
The economic recession brought about by the pandemic will also have a negative impact on Little League and other youth leagues, according to Woodard.
“Local business have been very supportive of our program over the years,” he said. “This may be the year that we have to rely more on reserves to get though and not ask as much from our business partners so that they have the opportunity to weather the storm and to recover from the economic downturn.”
As much as players, parents and fans are itching to get back on the field, Woodard wants everybody to look at the big picture.
“We are hopeful that our players will have some, abbreviated as it may be, opportunity to get the 2020 season in,” he said. “That said, we also recognize the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak…and while we all miss baseball, in the greater picture we are more concerned that our players and their families remain safe and healthy during this unprecedented event.”