As the summer heat draws closer, Baseball NL is already looking to return to play.
As the seasons change, summer sports are just around the corner. Baseball NL is preparing its return to play plan and has hopes this season will be better than the last.
In many ways, baseball and softball were on the front lines last summer during the pandemic. Baseball was one of the first major team sports to return to play given the fact it is played outdoors.
Ryan Garland, executive director of Baseball NL, is overseeing the creation of this season’s return-to-play proposal. While Garland says he can’t comment on specific sections, as the document is still being made, social distancing and player safety will be top priorities.
“I guess the biggest thing is probably to be flexible and to be prepared for just about anything,” said Garland. “I think we have learned especially with the shutdown in February that you’ve got to be prepared to take it day by day and see where it goes.”
Garland says Baseball NL hopes to offer more tournaments, such as invitationals and provincials, compared to last year. He is hopeful the lessons learned last year and the availability vaccines will make these events possible.
Dave Coates, the eastern director for Baseball NL, says even though baseball players can’t play games until the return-to-play plan is approved, they can still practice.
“Right now, the provincial government is allowing localized – and I say localized – but (it’s) team training,” said Coates. “My athletes that are from Paradise, CBN, Mount Pearl, you know, St. John’s and so on – we can train together.”
Since Hockey NL has gotten approval for its year-end tournaments, Coates says, he doesn’t think baseball should have trouble getting approved as well given the nature of the sport.
Coates says minor baseball programs were hit hard last year by a reduction in the number of players, with the five- to seven-year-old category being hit the hardest. He says he understands why but hopes this year, given the better understanding the public has, things will be different.
Social distancing does affect the quality of player training and coaching, especially with younger children.
“For some kids, they need to see a demonstration. For some kids, a verbal explanation is good. For some other kids, they need that extra help with you holding the bat or you positioning their glove a certain way,” said Coates. “We couldn’t do any of that ’cause we couldn’t get close enough to do that.”
While at times the summer can seem far away because of Newfoundland’s weather, Garland says this summer hopefully will be filled with everyone enjoying the game for all ages.
“You are never gonna solve everyone’s concerns or apprehensions, and that’s human nature,” said Garland. “But again, it’s just promoting that message; it’s making sure everyone is aware baseball is a safe sport.”