BAYONNE, NJ - “Bring it in,” Joe Malconico, a longtime coach and leader in Bayonne’s Little League shouted Saturday. And just like that, baseball was back for more than 300 children across the city.
The threat of rain felt like nothing in comparison to the health concerns brought on by COVID-19 that had delayed the start of the season, one that would already be historic in its own right because, for the first time in decades, all of Bayonne’s youngest sluggers would be playing under the banner of one league.
In October 2019, after long competing with each other for players, Cal Ripken League and the Bayonne Little League announced that they would combine.
It was hard to tell who was the most excited, the players, parents, or coaches, all sharing their enthusiasm for being back on the diamond, or in the stands.
Taking a break from throwing drills, four members of a team sponsored by Bayonne Roofing could hardly contain their enthusiasm. “Mind blown,” one said when asked to describe how he felt about donning his uniform for the first time this season. Even at just eight and nine years old the boys, Connor, Luis, George, and Oliver, shared that they understood the need to quarantine and keep social distance for past months.
“We haven’t played in a long time,” another said, a comment that drew a response from Jason Esposito, the father of one of the boys, who said that he was happy for the kids, adding that while some steps taken to limit the spread of the virus might prove to be over cautious, “that’s not a bad thing.”
“We are here today, and hopefully we get to keep playing,” he said.
Watching his son from the stands was Steven Adamczyk who said he was “happy to be doing this again.”
“We all are.”
Like most other children, Adamczyk described that his son missed his friends during the months-long stretch they were kept apart. “It’s been sad for everybody,” he said, acknowledging, however, that it was important to follow the prescribed guidelines.
For the most part, Adamczyk thinks that Bayonne residents have complied extremely well, even under the difficult circumstances. “It’s hit our area hard, people have been very understanding of that,” he said before sharing that he is “hoping and praying for some sort of return to normalcy.”
“Baseball helps,” he concluded, turning his eyes back to his son on the field.
The league has taken all possible precautions to keep players, and their families safe and healthy, including by delaying the start of the season an additional week when word of a potential outbreak spread, Commissioner Roger Malone told TAPinto Bayonne.
A self-described “baseball junkie,” Malone shared that he was excited that players were able to get back on the field, even with restrictions that include smaller rosters at younger ages, a limit of four players in the dugout, and a requirement for spectators to also maintain social distance.
With other fall sports starting also, Malone described that the number of players has been reduced from what would have been over 600 in the spring to just over 300 now, but still, “everyone is excited.”
As the conversation drew to a close the distinct sound of a ball hitting an aluminum bat echoed through the league office. Baseball was back in Bayonne.
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