The crack of the bat and the sound of little cleats is the soundtrack of summer, and if everything goes as planned, we could have Little League baseball in the coming weeks and months.
There’s a lot yet to be done, and far more planning before the games begin, but for 3,000 or more young people in Winston-Salem and surrounding communities, there just might be baseball this summer.
“There are things we need to work out,” District 2 administrator Vince Scanlon said. “We’re all waiting on what the governor says we can do and what the health department says we can do.”
Scanlon has 16 leagues scattered across Forsyth, Guilford, Davie, Rowan, Surry, Stokes and part of Chatham counties. No two leagues are completely alike, and there’s no way to set a single set of dates for opening day.
“A lot,” he said, “will be left to the individual leagues.”
Some have already made plans. Walnut Cove has canceled its season. Rowan County will start in August. Kernersville is looking at July 1, and Winston-Salem is considering opening practices in mid-June.
The unknown is what a “season” will look like.
Little League of America, the parent organization located in Williamsport, Pa., announced in April that there would be no Little League World Series or any regional tournaments before that.
It left open the possibility for leagues around the country, indeed the world, to resume playing according to local health guidelines and released its own 2020 Season Resumption Guide for local chapters to follow.
Carter Catlett, the president of New Market Little League in Guilford County, said plans are already under way for taking precautions.
“We might start practices with the parents sitting in their cars, but we’ll do what we have to do,” Catlett said. “We might have to limit the number of teams practicing, or with 12-member teams, we might have six in the outfield and six in the infield or groups of three doing pitching or fielding or whatever.”
He said safety and cleaning protocols will be in place, from wiping down equipment and dugouts between games, if not innings, and keeping parents separated behind the fences and in the bleachers and away from the dugouts.
“The main thiing is to just get these kids outside,” Catlett said. “They need to be together among friends again, even if it’s just to practice for a couple hours twice a week.”
Catlett said he understands there are people who think Little League baseball should be the furthest thing from our minds right now, but he also knows how important it can be, especially in a time of social distancing.
“I get it,” he said. “But I’ve been in public service my whole life. I know what the priorities need to be.”
All across America, youth baseball organizations are busy debating if and when to open our fields to the kids again. No two states are on the same schedule. Here in the Piedmont, no two communities are on the same timeline.
Scanlon said there are still details to be worked out about liability, insurance and potential refunds. He said all families would have to consider signing waivers before allowing their children to play.
And then everyone would be in it together, to open an American pastime.
It’s hardly our most important issue facing us, but baseball is part of the fabric of communities here and abroad.
We’re going to play Little League baseball this summer. When and where are just some of the unanswered questions right now.