Little League International and District 5 and 12 locally have not officially cancelled their entire softball and baseball operations this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but at least 10 leagues in Southern Arizona have put an end to their seasons.
Thornydale Little League, Sunnyside Little League, San Xavier Little League and Los Ninos Little League are the latest to make that decision.
“(The) board made the very difficult and sad decision to cancel the Spring 2020 season altogether,” wrote Thornydale Little League vice president Suzie Garcia to parents. “I am so sorry for the kids that were hoping to play. We tried our darnedest to make it happen.”
Thornydale, Sunnyside, San Xavier, Los Ninos, Southwestern Foothills, Flowing Wells-Amphi, Continental Ranch, Marana, Sabino and Copper Hills have announced cancellations of their seasons because of the health concerns from the pandemic and the difficult social-distancing guidelines to follow.
Others may make the same decision based on guidelines from the Governor Doug Ducey’s office. City and county parks and recreation facilities could open today, but availability of the parks for Little League teams can be altered by city and county government entities.
The City of Sahuarita has cancelled permits for all fields the entire month of May. That reduces the time available for Copper Hills to practice and play games.
Copper Hills president Stephanie Roberts is also a Family Medical Nurse Practitioner at Banner – University Medical South.
“There is not a good way to social distance the children in the dugouts,” Roberts wrote in a statement to coaches and parents. “They will all be utilizing the same balls, bats, helmets without cleaning between. Cleaning products are difficult to locate for even home cleaning.”
Another difficult demand is temperature-testing all coaches and players daily. Anybody with a fever (99.4 degrees or higher) is not allowed to return for at least 14 days. Coaches and players are also being told by Little League International and the districts to have “minimal contact” during practices and games.
“Our first priority is always the safety our players, our families, our volunteers and anyone that has contact with our organization,” a statement by the Flowing Wells-Amphi Little League reads. “Given the current recommendations from Little League International, West Region and District 5 that would be required in order to conduct a season, the league finds that some of these would be difficult and financially straining to implement.
“The board also considered that to move forward with a Spring/Summer Season it would require for us to play in June & July. Again, the safety of everyone is our top priority and since we are already having 100+ degree weather the Board understands that this would not be an ideal playing environment.”
Many of the leagues are run by volunteers, another factor in the cancellations. Not only are some leagues very cautious because of the pandemic, all of them will not be properly staffed to handle all the additional guidelines.
“The board met on Friday night and after much discussion, decided the safety of our players was too important to risk playing a season in the next two months,” reads a statement from Continental Ranch. “We had hoped that we would be able to play some type of season this summer but it is clear that any season we played would be filled with so many challenges that most of the fun would be lost.”
Refunds in each league are available to parents who have already paid for the child to participate. Some of the leagues are making it an option to either have the fee already paid be a donation or potentially have it go to expenses for the fall season (August to November) or next summer.
The Little League International announced last month that the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pa., will be canceled for the first time. Leagues locally were still allowed to play with potentially a state tournament to conclude the season, depending on ordinances related to COVID-19 in their area.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.