Play Ball! American Legion Baseball maps out a tentative return to the diamond

JACKSON, Wyo. — Taking a safety-first approach, Wyoming American Legion Baseball Chair Cody Beers outlined a plan for salvaging a baseball season for 2020 with teams across the state allowed to return to practice beginning today.

A return to baseball, like any other activity, will be heavily dependent on the current state of restrictions at any given time.

“The message,” Beers says, “is be flexible. The season we originally planned to play no longer exists. This season will be like no other, and our ability to be flexible is the key.”

As teams return to practice, they will have to adhere to numerous guidelines including no more than 9 players on the field at a time, mandatory batting gloves, and, sorry, no sunflower seeds—a dugout staple.

Coach of the local team—the Post 43 Jackson Giants—Jason Huggins says he will begin coordinating a few informal practices in the coming days, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

“We can go out and throw a little bit, maintaining six feet apart of course and having no more than 9 players on the field,” Huggins said. “In baseball, with the bases 90 feet apart and 60 feet, six inches from the mound to home plate—I guess you can say we’ve been social distancing for 150 years.”

Huggins anticipates being able to have players take swings in the batting cage against a pitching machine. Pitchers and catchers can also throw, and infielders and outfielders can begin taking grounders and shagging flies.

For us to get out and just play catch, and get the kids some outside time away from a screen will be very welcome,” Huggins added.

Beginning Monday, May 4, Wyoming American Legion Baseball practices may begin with these restrictions:

  • Wyoming teams will follow any state health orders issued by Gov. Mark Gordon and State Health Officer Alexia Harrist, including: Order #2 … The statewide public health order forbidding gatherings of ten (10) people or more has been continued through May 15, 2020. A Countywide Variance Order that is less restrictive or more restrictive than the Statewide Order may be requested by the County Health Officer and approved by the State Health Officer. County Health Officers may also request exceptions to specific provisions contained within the three statewide orders.
  • Wyoming teams will follow any county health orders issued in their home counties.
  • No Wyoming teams will play games during this time.

Field restrictions during this practice period:

  • No more than 9 people (including coaches and players) allowed on any 1 field at a time, with different entrances and different exits required for groups. If adjacent field or batting cage is available, separate entrances/exits are required. No intermingling!
  • Healthy participants only (coaches/players). No spectators/parents/media allowed in the facility
  • Players will stay more than 6 feet apart from each other
  • No team water jugs; no sunflower seeds; bring your own drinks, use your own
  • Dugouts, locker rooms and indoor facilities are closed
  • No scrimmages/modified games allowed during this initial practice time
  • No intermingling (cross-pollination) of players allowed as one group leaves field and another enters (Recommendation: Allow for 15-30 minutes of down time to allow one group to leave before another one arrives)
  • Required hand washing: Hand washing stations/hand sanitizer stations will be available for players; team will provide these stations at the field
  • If restrooms are open, they will be cleaned after each 9-group practice
  • Equipment storage area cleaned after each practice by coach/board member
  • Batting gloves required; bats cleaned after every practice
  • Each player will have a batting helmet, and the helmet will be assigned to the player only. Helmet cleaning required after every practice by coach/board member. For 2020, multi-colored helmets, such as those from past years, are approved for use
  • Catchers gear assigned to catchers. No swapping of gear. Catchers gear cleaning after every practice by coach/board member
  • Practice balls cleaned after every practice
  • Coaches/board members cleaning of all areas prior to and after practices

If/when restrictions ease, more direction will be provided so games can begin. Here are things to consider:

  • Limited/no spectators. Bleachers will be closed
  • Teams are encouraged to research/implement live video streaming for families
  • Local working media (newspaper/radio) will be allowed.
  • Concession stands will be closed, except to players. Teams hosting games may prepare meals for visiting teams, etc., provide drinks for sale, etc. Concession stands will be cleaned by board members before/during/after games
  • Geography will play a role for spectators with social distancing required. Spectators may be able to view games from a hill or behind the outfield fence. No intermingling of fans/players allowed. If your field is enclosed by view-proof fencing, viewing will be by video streaming only
  • No team meetings between innings or in dugouts. As much as possible, players and coaches will be socially distanced during games
  • Team travel will need to be considered, including hotel assignments. Teams may want to consider giving players the option to travel and stay with their parents while on the road
  • An entry and exit plan will exist for players for doubleheaders and tournaments. No postgame handshakes between teams, or pregame handshakes with coaches/umpires. No gatherings of players outside the playing field. Players/coaches will exit fields as soon as possible
  • During tournaments, teams will enter the facility when called to do so (2 teams will enter, prepare, play, leave, and then two more teams will enter after dugouts, restrooms are cleaned). Expect 30 minutes after a game ends before the next 2 teams are allowed to enter facilities. Warmup period may take place at another facility, and batting cages may/may not be available

More from Cody Beers:

The 2020 goal is a successful baseball season and to crown Wyoming state champions.

It’s incumbent upon everyone to practice good hygiene before, at, and after practices. If you or anyone in your immediate family is diagnosed with COVID-19, a mandatory quarantine is necessary. It is also important that if you do not feel good or experience any signs of COVID-19 that you stay home and seek medical assistance. Anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19 (stuffy nose, fever, cough, etc.) should not come to practice. Remember that Safety is our No. 1 Priority.

All will sign and date this document before starting practice. A signed copy should be given to local media and a responsible parent of each player. Coach, shoot a photo of each parent­ signed copy of this practice plan, and keep copies. Please have several signed copies (Beers, Board President, Coach) available should you/your program be questioned by a citizen/group. Feel free to forward my contact information to anyone if needed.

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