By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
It’s been a long time coming, but America’s pastime will soon return to Little League fields.
Gov. Ned Lamont OK’d youth sports to return as part of the second phase of the state’s reopening plan.
Little League baseball is at the heart of the game and will help to usher in some return to normalcy, or at least as normal as things can get at the moment.
“I know some parents are hesitant to sign up their kids with this pandemic going on, and that is understandable,” Peter J. Foley Little League President Robert Didato said. “But after a few weeks and they see how it goes, we are going to hold our registration open so kids can sign up and join at any time throughout the summer.”
There will be restrictions and guidelines in place when games start up again, including a limit of 50 spectators per game or practice, no sharing equipment, baseballs will be cleaned and disinfected and rotated throughout the game, coaches and players must wear masks and practice social distancing in dugouts, and teams will line up on opposing foul lines and tip their cap to opponents instead of shaking hands at the end of games.
Peter J. Foley, Union City, Beacon Falls and Prospect little leagues were a flurry of activity last week with tryouts and player evaluations as they prepare to play ball in July.
Union City Little League, under the direction of President Dennis Segetti, will conduct tryouts for its major softball and baseball division, and players in the minor and youth divisions will be drafted.
Prospect Little League President Brandon Avery said the league will start off slowly.
“We will be opening up with our older divisions to see how it goes,” he said. “T-ball and coach-pitch will be eased into it as we go along.”
Robert A. Cole Baseball League in Beacon Falls is starting fresh after refunding registration fees for spring baseball. League President Erik Pulkkinen and his staff are putting together the older divisions, while T-ball will be a clinic and coach-pitch will be put together based on interest.
“We are basically starting over with a summer baseball program,” Pulkkinen said. “As far as the younger programs go, we are just happy to get them out there running around and we will see what the interest is. With it being so late in the season, some maybe getting ready for football.”
“For now we will focus on the older divisions and in some cases parents are a bit hesitant, and that can be expected,” he added. “But I think for the most part everyone is just happy for the opportunity to get the kids back out there having fun.”
The two Naugatuck leagues are working together to make the season special for players.
“What I really want to highlight this year is the special relationship we have been forming with the two little leagues in town,” Didato said. “We are planning on a 16-game schedule to begin the July 11 weekend with all the teams in PJF and Union City participating in an end-of-season, double-elimination tournament followed by a town championship series.”
“The two leagues have made great strides to come together with the goal of giving every kid in town who wants to participate a place to play baseball this summer,” he added. “We talked it over with the board and decided we will run our entire program from majors to youth.”