HUDSON VALLEY, N.Y. – It’s time to play baseball!
Well, almost. And kind of.
The wheels are in motion for youth baseball and softball to return to Westchester County and the surrounding area soon.
But a few things still need to happen. And there are a lot of question marks. Like health protocols for players, limited spectators, and facilities—fields on which to play the games.
The Greater Hudson Valley Baseball League (GHVBL), the largest league in the area with over 700 teams participating throughout the year, is scheduled to play its first game in Connecticut on July 2, and games are set to begin in New York July 6.
The Mid-Hudson area was expected to be in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan this week, allowing teams to practice, with games beginning July 6, according to David Zaslaw, GHVBL founder and president.
“New York has done a great job managing the curve,” he said.
Zaslaw said that the league depends on town and school officials opening the fields so teams can play.
“Some towns are ready to open practices and then have games,” he said. “And some (lower Westchester) aren’t quite ready. It really depends on the town. I believe Yorktown and Mahopac are ready for July 6, and fields will be open for games.”
But school fields are off the table until Phase 4, according to Mahopac’s athletic director, Frank Miele.
“The softball league and [Mahopac] Sports Association have asked us about facilities,” Miele said this week. “But we’re not doing anything until at least July 20. Things can change, right now everybody is in a rush. But it’s my understanding that the schools will not open facilities until Phase 4.”
That leaves teams hoping for county fields to be opened.
“Without school facilities, we are hoping to get the support of county executives to allow us to play on county fields,” Zaslow said. “The Mid-Hudson task force hopefully can impact that. We definitely need their support.
“But we’re still on track for July 6 in New York,” Zaslow added. “All of the Mid-Hudson region will be able to play baseball by then. And it’s up to the coaches to come up with the fields to play on. But I have very high confidence they will get fields. A lot of towns are opening their fields on July 6.”
Practices and games will follow new protocols, including only three players at a time inside the dugout, only 12 players (per team) allowed to come to the field for each game, umpires must wear a mask, coaches wear masks at all times, and perhaps the trickiest of all—catchers are to wear masks.
“That will be tough, tough on the players,” said Mike Ambrosecchia, coach of Mahopac’s 17U team. “They’ll need to be hydrated, especially on a hot afternoon. Hopefully that (the mask for the catcher) is an optional thing.”
Two parents or spectators are allowed from each family.
“And they’ll have to social distance from other groups,” the coach said. “As of now, we’re OK with it. Hopefully it goes smoothly.”
A universal “no-touch” rule also applies to players, coaches, and umpires.
“The no touching and socially distancing will be the toughest to enforce,” Ambrosecchia said. “Kids are playing with their friends. It will be very interesting.”
Zaslow believes the adults on the field can keep things on track.
“I feel like the coaches can keep the kids under control,” Zaslaw said. “And kids are fast learners, so I don’t think it will be a problem. I think they will get acclimated to the new rules very quickly.
“Hopefully this is not forever,” he added. “We want to get back to baseball—the way it was meant to be played—soon. But for now, and in the fall, we have rules in place, and will adhere to those. Because I think people are starved for baseball.”
The numbers prove his point. The GHVBL has 440 teams registered for this summer’s 42-game schedule—and they registered about a month ago, well into the pandemic.
“I was surprised at the amount of teams registered. I thought some might hesitate,” Zaslaw said. “Right now, we have 440, which is unreal, that’s unbelievable. I’m shocked, and pleasantly surprised.”