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Sports face what could have been versus what could be

This week local teams could have been wrapping up the first round of the high school baseball playoffs. Teams like Phil Campbell and Russellville were legitimate contenders for state titles and would most likely be heading to the second round of the playoffs this weekend.

Instead, those players are sitting at home separated from their teams for more than a month now and wondering what might have been.

Looking forward, there will be no high school baseball or softball playoffs, but youth leagues might get somewhat of a reprieve. There is a possibility youth baseball and softball could return in Alabama as soon as May 11.

State leaders, led by Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, issued a report last week recommending to Gov. Kay Ivey how some businesses and activities could return in May. One of those activities was youth baseball and softball.

May 11 is the target date recommended in the report by Ainsworth. Ivey, however, did not announce any plans to take immediate action on the report.

The report has nothing to do with high school sports. Any resuming of high school activities will be made by the Alabama High School Athletic Association in conjunction with the State Department of Education.

Jamie Duboise, one of the coordinators for Phil Campbell youth leagues, was excited to hear the news.

“If Dixie Youth and USSSA give us the go-ahead, and if it gets approved by Gov. Ivey, then yes, we’ll most likely start that week,” said Duboise. “We will probably not practice but a few days because we have to get the season in before the end of June.

Duboise said she was already working to think through precautions and obtain safety supplies. Her big concern is one that looms over all sports programs: money.

“A big problem is going to be no concession sales for a few weeks,” she explained. “That’s the only way we make money to pay utilities and umpires. Hopefully that will get lifted before too long where we can at least sell drinks and prepackaged items.”

Even though the report gave a recommended date for return to play, there were several preconditions in the report, which noted that maintaining social distancing and “following the measures recommended in this section will be critical to establishing safe and healthy operations of youth recreational activities and sports.” The report noted that although the application of the recommendations might vary by sport, they will largely need to be followed as described. Officials will need to:

  • Ensure all player equipment is properly spaced to limit interaction.
  • Require coaches, players, parents and attendees to practice responsible social distancing when and where possible, especially in common areas like dugouts.
  • Limit the use of team-shared equipment and encourage the cleaning and sanitizing of this equipment after each use.
  • Strictly monitor the health of each employee, coach and player and require any individual with a fever or other symptoms of COVID-19 to not participate in team activities.
  • Require all employees, officials and coaches to wear PPE, especially facemasks where applicable.
  • Encourage use of face masks by players and in close contact areas and situations where applicable.
  • Increase frequency of cleaning and sanitizing measures in facilities, especially in areas of high traffic, such as restrooms.
  • Ensure no food or concession sales allowed at facilities.
  • Limit public restrooms to a one in, one out policy.
  • Schedule practices and games to allow for additional time for teams and attendees to exit the premises before other teams and attendees enter.