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Postcards From The Pandemic: Youth Summer Sports Return To The Diamond

Summer is the season of mitts, bats and mounds, but some youth softball and baseball leagues in Northeast Ohio canceled their 2020 seasons because of COVID-19 concerns. Other leagues decided to keep their seasons alive.

Bethany Saris lives in Copley and has four daughters – all softball players. Saris is also the commissioner of the Copley-Fairlawn Athletic Association’s local youth softball leagues.

Saris’ youngest daughter is six years old and was ready for T-ball, but the league decided to cancel the 2020 T-ball programs.

Her 11-year-old and 8-year-old both play in the leagues Saris manages.

Her oldest daughter, Lexi, is 13 and plays on a local travel team.

“It felt nice to get back on the field and play. I just thought we wouldn’t be able to play, so I’m glad we got to,” Lexi Saris said.

Lexi Saris plays for a travel baseball team in Copley. [Bethany Saris]

Missed The Game

Lexi: When we didn’t have any practices or anything, when we were quarantined, I kind of missed doing something because we were just sitting at home.  

Bethany: I was pretty concerned that we would not have softball this summer, just with everything back in May being unknown. Also, a lot of our fields are located on school property, so all of the schools’ facilities were all shut down.

It brings the kids together. It really strengthens friendships, as well as softball skills. It gets them out there and gets them active, keeps them moving, gives them something to do. And they definitely miss it when they don’t have it. 

This travel softball team roster in Copley was put together last Fall. [Bethany Saris] 

Coronavirus Caution

Bethany: Players, if they’re on the field, are not needed to wear masks, but it is still recommended if they are on the bench and not in active play.

Coaches are recommended to wear a mask.

The social distancing of players as well as spectators is supposed to be the six feet for everyone present at the field. Some leagues are not allowing the use of their dugouts for that reason.

The concern still exists. It’s still there. Obviously, this isn’t going away any time soon, but on the other hand the kids have been outside and playing with the neighborhood kids and out in nature. As long as they’re outside and they’re trying to keep their distance, I’m not so concerned with actually contracting anything.

Now, if we were doing an indoor league where there was less ventilation and obviously a closed-in space, my answer would probably be a little different.

And there are some parents and players that feel it’s too soon.

Lexi: Baseball, even if you are trying to tag someone, you’re normally about an arm’s length away. But for football and basketball you’re right next to each other trying to get the ball or block someone or tackle them.

State regulations do not require masks to be worn on the softball diamond. [Bethany Saris]

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Bethany: Especially with the last few months of schooling from home and we had been cooped up in the house for a couple months, and I think it was really good for them to get out there and socialize again and just get active.

Lexi: It felt nice to get back on the field and if we didn’t get back on I feel like we’d be just sitting at home bored and arguing with each other in the back about who’s batting first. It just felt nice to get back on the field and hang out with my teammates.

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