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How youth baseball will resume this summer

Kids won’t learn how to high-five this summer.

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2019 Little League World Series: Game 2 New England v. Southeast Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Major League Baseball is looking to return by July with some new safety protocols in place, but at the amateur level, there are many questions as to whether the game can resume. Already the college baseball season has been cancelled, as have nearly all high school baseball seasons, and even some collegeiate summer leagues have already said there will not be a season this year.

For many, youth baseball and softball will continue this summer, although with several modifications to mitigate the risk of spreading the coronavirus. Missouri youth sports were allowed to resume once the stay-at-home order expired on May 4. Kansas allowed youth sports to resume on May 22.

The Little League World Series has been cancelled this summer, but the organization will still allow leagues to resume this summer and have released a set of guidelines for safe play. The guidelines recommend keeping six feet between each person, with coaches and staff wearing masks and protective gloves. Shared equipment and contact such as post-game handshakes and high fives should be discouraged. Umpires will stand behind the pitcher instead of behind the plate, and balls will be switched out every two innings.

My son plays in the J-League, run by the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, and they have taken additional measures, such as limiting the number of visitors allowed to watch a game to two per child, requiring spectators stay six feet apart, and requiring the child to wait with the parent while their team is hitting, rather than congregating in the dugout, until the child’s turn to bat is next. They have also taken crowd control measures such as limiting when games take place concurrently and staggering starts so that crowds are not walking in and out at the same time.

Unfortunately, not everyone has taken the same approach. Forty-seven youth teams with 550 players participated in a baseball tournament in St. Louis earlier this month.

While very few children have been affected by the coronavirus as severely as adult patients, doctors and scientists have noticed a rare, but dangerous syndrome mirroring Kawasaki’s disease that causes fevers, rashes, stomach pain, and, in some cases, heart problem. Kids can also transmit the disease to other, more high-risk adults, particularly since many children don’t have great personal hygiene. Taking proper safety precautions is a prudent measure that may cause baseball to look a bit different at the Little League park this summer, but hopefully it can allow some normalcy while reducing the risk of the disease.

Do you have a child in your family playing youth baseball this summer? Are you apprehensive at all about letting them play? What measures is your local league taking to mitigate the risks?