By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — The start to the Little League season was a long time coming, but young baseball and softball players stepped back onto the field this month.
“We have been practicing for two and a half weeks now and all the teams are fit and ready to go. This being the first game, I know everyone is excited to be here and to get this season underway,” said Peter J. Foley Little League President Robert Didato as the Naugatuck league opened the season July 11.
Across Route 8 at Union City Little League in Naugatuck, girls softball teams got the first competitive action in to open the season.
There were a few subtle differences from years past as leagues adhere to guidelines and requirements amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Umpires and coaches wore facemasks when they couldn’t social distance. The number of players were limited in the dugouts as others socially distanced in cordoned off areas nearby. Umpires called balls and strikes from behind pitchers rather than behind home plate.
Fans at Peter J. Foley Little League sat spread out in the bleachers. Some at Union City Little League watched the action from their tailgates as others practiced social distancing in the stands.
All in all, the precautions didn’t seem to be bothersome to most. They appeared to just be happy to see the kids out on the fields playing ball.
Sean McLauhglin, a member of the Union City board of directors, said it was a challenge to get the kids ready and start the season.
“Between working with state regulations and making sure the kids were ready to play; the bottom line is to make sure the kids have a great experience,” he said. “The coaches, in addition to getting the kids ready, have a whole lot more to contend with making sure everything is going according to the guidelines. But, for the most part, the number one goal of getting the kids back out there on the field of play has been a success.”
Prospect Little League is set to start the season this weekend against teams from Robert A. Cole Baseball League in Beacon Falls.
“This is not your typical season and we just don’t have the numbers to play in-house games yet,” Prospect Little League Brandon Avery said. “But we are excited to get the season going this coming weekend against Beacon Falls.”
The Robert A. Cole Baseball League played in-league games July 13 and July 15 to start the year ahead of the weekend showdown with Prospect.
“There were a lot of happy faces out there,” Robert A. Cole Baseball League President Erik Pulkkinen said. “Our Majors played on Monday and our Minors went on Wednesday playing in-house games.
“This weekend our Majors will play Prospect on Friday and on Sunday the Minors will play. Our coach-pitch is just playing in town. But by the looks of it everyone is just very happy to be back out there.”