I took a stroll this week to Love-Hatbox Sports Complex, something I haven’t done in over a decade, to see how the oddest of youth baseball seasons is playing out.
It took until June 1.
Both the baseball and softball leagues typically begin in April. Softball never got started. Soccer leagues didn’t either. Fort Gibson wiped out all of theirs as well.
Granted, baseball is run by the city — other area leagues were led by volunteers - so getting going appeared easier as long as you had the willing teams.
And with proper social distancing, they began.
“We had them six feet apart in practice that first week,” said Trevarose Pritchett, coach of the unbeaten Pirates in 8-under. “I was trying to teach them the techniques but I couldn’t get close to them. Had to talk them through everything but it worked out.”
There was also the issue of a couple of players who with families were unsure about returning in the era of the Coronavirus. They’re back, but Pritchett said they’re still waiting for uniforms ordered late and so, the kids are playing without them.
Oh that social distancing now, forget about it. That’s what struck me as being, uh,well, normal. Kids from one end of the park to the other were in their dugouts, as usual. Fans, up to 100 or so per field, were in bunches in the bleachers or scattered in lawn chairs around the perimeter of the fields. Some, it might seem, practiced it by watching from beyond the outfield in chairs from home.
Teams have been instructed to use their own balls when on defense. Instead of the traditional handshake, teams line up on the foul line after the game and tip their caps to the other team.
But the dugouts? Well, they’re like one big quarantine area.”
“These kids, they’re friends with each other so they’re going to be close to each other,” Pritchett said., noting they’ve used temperature checks.
The lone sickness issue for Tim Applegate’s Diamond Dawgs was a catcher who got overheated, toting the equipment on a 90-degree night in a 12-under body.
“He got too hot and threw up a few times on the way home after the game,” he said.
The kid was OK.
Outside of that, apparently, no issues anywhere.
“As far as I know, no team or spectator has had anyone diagnosed with COVID-19,” Applegate said.
That being with, at least on this night, no masks anywhere.
“I have not seen anyone wearing masks while at the baseball fields except for the people working the concession stands,” said Applegate. “The complex encourages people to practice social distancing but it is hard to do.”
No runs, no hits, no errors? No masks, no sickness, no problem.
That’s good, maybe, kind of — what with the reports going around.
At least in a year that has been anything but normal, this walk through the park seemed normal. It even seemed relaxed. I can recall times 15 years ago with my own kids playing, the entertainment at times was reality show variety, in the stands involving the antics of adults.
Not so on this night, and hopefully, not much at all. Besides, we’re all too tired of the Rona and 2020 in general.
In the end, give everyone at Hatbox and associated with Hatbox credit. It took two months to get started, and they’re rolling right through a year that will end July 6.
In the time that took, Major League Baseball won’t get started until July 24, thanks to spoiled rich owners and players.
Shame on them. It’s a kid’s game anyway.
And for these kids, their summer ritual wasn’t stolen from them.