Youth coaches, players grateful for chance to play

By 
Justin Hotop

Last week the Perryville Parks and Recreation Department made the choice to continue with its youth baseball and softball summer leagues. It wasn’t without some changes to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Coaches see the changes as needed, given the pandemic.
“They are making the best of an unfortunate situation,” Matthew Kramer said.
Kramer, who coaches his son Nicholas in the 11-13 age group, is aware of the risk that is associated with playing during the current climate.
“Right now there’s a risk associated with anything you do,” Kramer said. “But if you follow the guidelines from the CDC and health department and take the proper precautions, you’re doing the best you can.”
The Parks and Recreation Department looked at several different communities that had “sandlot” leagues and infused their ideas with some of their own.
Those modifications include: Games will not be forfeited.  Instead, the batting team will lend outfielders to the fielding team as necessary for play to continue.  The “borrowed” players will play the outfield positions while the “regular” players play the infield.  
Coaches may invite non-rostered players of a similar age and ability to fill a lineup.  For example, this could include siblings of the players, friends from school, visiting cousins or fans in attendance.  If necessary, teams may play with fewer players than otherwise necessary. The only caveat is these kids should not pitch unless both coaches approve.
For coaches like Seth Amschler, who leads his sons Hudson and Greyson’s t-ball team they have had to deal with some parents pulling their kids from the league entirely. Of the 10 players on Amschler’s team, two kids were pulled from the league. In terms of t-ball, Amschler hasn’t seen much difference in the quality of play.
“With 10 players on the team, the infield can get crowded,” Amschler said. “So if anything, with eight players, the game can speed along a little bit.”
Due to the rise in concerns from parents, one of the modifications encourages coaches to allow parents to encourage social distancing. In the case of Amschler, he has his players spread out even farther.
“I have about four that choose to sit with their parents and another four that sit on the bench and I keep them as spread as best I can,” he said.
Which Mike Ellis, coach of his son Clay’s team in the 9-10 age group is hard to do sometimes.
“On the bench the kids like to huddle together and talk with each other,” Ellis said. “If they start to get too close then I tell them to spread back out, which is something to be expected.”
The modifications were needed because of a myriad of circumstances.
Since the youth leagues began on June 22, there has been one umpire test positive for COVID-19 and another resign due to a fear of contracting the virus.
Last week, a head coach tested positive and one member of the maintenance staff was awaiting test results.
While the rule changes are set in place, Kramer, Ellis and Amschler do not feel any different coaching or participating in the summer leagues.
“Baseball is probably the best sport when it comes to distancing because there is very little contact from person to person and it’s easier to spread them out on the field. There’s really no difference in the games once you get the players on the field.”
In the revised format no champions will be crowned in any age group, but at the end of the day the coaches are thankful for the opportunity to play.
“I appreciate the city and park for taking this option into consideration, and making a decision that was best for everybody and letting the kids play,” Amschler said.

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