It looked for quite some time as if there might not be a summer baseball season with the COVID-19 pandemic in the world.
While the virus is continuing to spread in some southern and western states, Ohio has begun to get back to being able to do some of the things people love.
And one of them is baseball.
The Washington C.H. Little League will hold its 66th season beginning Tuesday at the Little League complex on Lewis Street.
There are three games scheduled for Tuesday. As of Friday afternoon, there is only a 10 percent chance of rain that day.
At 5:45 p.m., SVG will play First State Bank on the Majors field.
Also Tuesday, beginning at 6 p.m., on the Minors field, Quali-Tee will take on ERA and Herron Financial will play Jr. Firemen at 8 p.m.
The Record-Herald visited the ball fields Thursday as teams were practicing on both the Majors and Minors field on a glorious weather day.
The league’s new president, Scott Flowers, and board member Colt Sever (who is in charge of information and communication for the league) spoke about the upcoming season, some of the changes that have been made at the complex and the safety measures that have been put in place.
“One of the things we as a board waited for (were) the safety protocols to be disseminated by the state and the department of health,” Flowers said. “We waited on those to come out and we made the determination that we would be able to have a season, as long as we put safety protocols in place.
“One of the things we’ve done is to put the games on a time schedule,” Flowers said. “We had to come up with a way to socially distance folks. The schedule is not necessarily based on six innings, but scheduling the games for an hour and a half. At the end of that hour and a half, the game is over.
“What we asked at our parents’ meeting is, at the conclusion of the games, they get their children and then go ahead and leave,” Flowers said. “They don’t congregate. We ask them to leave as soon as the game is over, that way, the next group of parents, grandparents, family members, can come and watch the game.
“If the first game has a weather delay, we’re pretty much calling the game off right then and there,” Flowers said. “Little League rules say if you see lightning, you have to wait for a half hour to resume the game. If we see lightning during the first game, we’re going to go ahead and cancel that game because of the time limit associated with the game.”
In that way, the second slated game of the evening can start (if the weather cooperates) at its regularly scheduled time, Flowers said.
“We’ve built in time between games to be able to wipe down the fence posts and the gates,” Flowers said. “We’ll wipe down the concession stand, the port-a-johns, the high-touch areas.”
During the games, kids will not stay in the dugouts, but outside of them, Flowers said.
“We’ve roped off areas outside of the dugouts,” Flowers said. “We’re not going to have any of the kids piled up inside the dugouts. The kids will be staggered outside in these roped areas. We have cordoned off approximately 70 to 80 feet outside for the players only. We’re going to ask the spectators who come to the games to watch from the outfield. We’re doing that to be able to do the social-distancing, as well as keeping the kids in an open-air environment.
“We worked with the Fayette County Health Department as soon as requirements were released by the state of Ohio,” Flowers said.
“As a board, we have had several discussions dating all the way back to shortly after the pandemic started,” Flowers said. “We had conversations about the season in April and May. We had to postpone our tryouts and our draft. We’ve had to make a lot of modifications. A lot of our conversations were about waiting to see what happens as they begin to restart Ohio.
“While we were waiting (for word from the state) we decided we could come up with a plan in order to have a safe season,” Flowers said. “One of our guiding principals was that we wanted to allow the kids in the community to be able to play baseball, but, only if we could do it in a safe manner.
“We have protocols about wiping down equipment,” Flowers said. “We’re going to switch the baseballs out after every two innings and disinfect the balls so they can be safe to use again. We’ve got hand sanitizer we’re going to utilize as the kids are coming off the field before they even go sit in the open air dugout.
“We’re not going to have the traditional line after the game and saying ‘good game,’” Flowers said. “We’re asking them to do a tip of the hat-type salute as a sign of sportsmanship. We’re hoping what you see on the field resembles a lot of what baseball looks like. The biggest changes you are going to see with the social-distancing is for the spectators and keeping the kids separated when they are not actually playing.
“Instead of putting an umpire behind home plate, we’re going to have them in the middle of the infield, calling balls and strikes in a safe distance behind the pitcher’s mound,” Flowers said.
“We’re excited for the opportunity to provide some sense of normalcy for the kids of our community,” Flower said. “Kids have missed out on graduations and they’ve been home-schooled for the last three months, playing video games, schooling on computers, and it’s just nice that we can allow an opportunity for the kids. We are following safety protocols to make sure it’s a safe experience for the kids.
“Coaches will have masks,” Flowers said. “In case there’s an incident where a coach has to come out and check on a kid, they can pull their mask up and render aid.”
If a player hits a home run, the third base coach is not to touch the player as they hit third base and head for home.
“We’ll have a tip of the cap, or a salute or an air fist-bump, something of that nature,” Flowers said. “It’s no touch.”
For many years, Washington C.H. Little League was a part of the District 8. In recent years, Washington C.H. teams have fairly dominated District 8 tournament play, with all three age group teams advancing to State play several times.
This year, the local little league is in District 6, which includes teams from central Ohio, as opposed to the Dayton area (which was District 8).
“There has been a complete reconfiguration of the entire state,” Colt Sever said. “Talk is tentative at this time, but, (officials) would like to try to hold some type of District all-star game. They want to see how everything else progresses.”
In previous years, all three Washington C.H. Little League All-Star teams competed in some type of District tournament, which precedes the State tournament. It was announced some time ago that there would not be a Little League World Series held in Williamsport, Pa. this year.
“Any updates about things we have going on will be on our Facebook page,” Sever said. “Game cancellations, anything like that. When we have information about cancellations, that will be the first place for everyone to find that. We hope everyone will follow and share our page, so the information gets out a little quicker.”
As for changes at the fields, one new scoreboard has been installed on the Majors field with another ready to be installed on the Minors field.
“We’ve had two scoreboards donated to the park,” Flowers said. “One is from the Fraternal Order of Eagles #423. We also have another scoreboard from W & W Dry Cleaners, the Linen Closet and S & S Janitorial. We just don’t have that one up yet. We were able to use the steel poles from the previous scoreboard on the Majors field. We had to have new steel poles built for our other scoreboard. The new scoreboards also have a place to keep track of the pitch counts. We’ve put a lot of time, effort and energy into the fields.”
The old bleachers have been removed, as well.
“When we decided we were (going to have a season), the board decided to offer the kids of our community the opportunity to play for free,” Flowers said. “We decided if we did away with a few things here and there, that we could offer refunds to everyone who had already registered to play. We contacted everyone who had registered and made sure they were still okay with their kids playing and also to offer them a refund.”
One cost-saving thing the board did was to mow the fields themselves, according to Flowers.
“What we found was, so many people were touched by our offer to let the kids play for free, that they said, ‘hey, use (the registration fee) to operate the program,’” Flowers said. “So many people were grateful that we offered it to them. And they still declined (to be refunded). It was about half and half. The folks that didn’t take (the offer of a refund) were very appreciative.
“We had a field day this past Sunday and we had over 20 volunteers come down here and help us start to get the fields ready,” Flowers said. “We’ve had a lot of donations. Melvin Stone donated a lot of gravel for our parking lot and 25 tons of dirt, as well.
“We’re excited,” Flowers said. “We think we have a safe program set up to run for the kids.”
“Unfortunately, this year with the pandemic, we had to cancel our annual fish fry fundraiser,” Sever said. “However, we did decide that we are going to go forward with a 50/50 style raffle. The tickets are $10 each. Kids have them for sale, as do board members and coaches. Or you can ask us on Facebook.
“For every $1,000 raised, we’re going to give out a $500 prize,” Sever said. “All that will be done at the conclusion of the season.”
“The drawing, I believe, is July 18,” Flowers said. “And, you do not have to be present to win.”
The season is scheduled to run through mid-July with games scheduled through July 15.