Known as America’s pastime, baseball has gotten us through the tough times.
Sports, however, including recreational youth baseball, fall into Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan, which means that they will be among the last activities to resume.
Right now, Saratoga hopes to have at least a partial season.
“We are absolutely hoping to play,” said Joe Rigabar, President of Saratoga-Wilton Youth Baseball.
Baseball practices typically begin in April, but now, hopes are that the fields will reopen for play by late June or early July.
Once they do, baseball still won’t look the same as it has in previous years.
“It will obviously be different. There’s not going to be six games going on at once with spectators all around. We’ll have to adapt and have some changes but we think it’s important for kids of all ages to get back out there and play at some point,” said Rigabar.
Social distancing and limiting physical contact may mean restricting the number of spectators and the number of kids in the dugout. The concession stand will likely be closed.
“We’ll do whatever it takes to get the kids out on the field and playing,” he said.
KEEPING BASEBALL ALIVE
While best practices guidelines have been released by several national youth sports organizations, Rigabar said it is not entirely clear what the state, county, and local guidelines for reopening will be.
Working with other local youth sports representatives, a reopening plan was submitted to local officials, so once they’ve been given the go-ahead, they hope to be able to move very quickly to begin the season, he said.
While they wait, Rigabar’s two sons, ages 12 and 8, have been practicing at home.
“We were pretty excited for this season and when that was taken away from us, there was a lot of sadness. The kids, including my son, Jack, have worked really hard to get to this point, so it’s been really challenging, but we’ve been getting outside almost every day and have been continuing to have fun. We just hope to keep a love of baseball alive for him and for all of his buddies.”
HEALING THE COMMUNITY
Saratoga-Wilton Youth Baseball is comprised of nearly 500 families, with participants in a Cal Ripken division for younger children, the Babe Ruth Division for ages 12-15, and the Blue Sox travel team.
Early on, a letter was sent to families letting them know about the delays and offering a refund of registration fees if they had health concerns or were experiencing financial hardships.
“I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. While there were probably some who didn’t register who normally might have, of those that did, only three percent have backed out and asked for a refund of their registration fees,” said Rigabar.
No community sponsors have pulled out either, although the leagues did make the decision not to pursue new small business sponsorships this year.
“Financially, we’re in a place where baseball can continue. It is important to our kids and our community. People need this and want this.”