Facemasks. Social-distancing marks on the dugout and adjacent bleachers. Industrial-sized jugs of cleaning solution for baseballs. Hand sanitizer. Signs alerting “No spitting. No seeds. No peanuts.” …
This is a part of baseball these days at the Kino Sports Complex as much as gloves, bats, caps and batting cages.
This is the new normal for about 150 college-age baseball players this summer who want to return to playing the sport they love after COVID-19 cut short their high school senior seasons or freshman and sophomore seasons in college.
The Kino Baseball League’s Sun Belt College Summer League season is slated to start June 26 upon approval of the Pima County administration and health department. For now, the players who comprise the six teams in the SBCL are working out, following a strict participation schedule. Only two teams at a time can practice daily at the complex.
“We’re doing some very strong mitigation,” Kino Baseball League president Bill Leith said. “We’re following all the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines and doing everything that we possibly can to give these young men the opportunity to play this summer.”
No spectators are allowed at the practices at the seven Kino Baseball Complex fields. A determination will be made closer to the June 26 opening date by Pima County officials on whether spectators will be allowed to attend games. No concession stands will be available until July 20.
Per Pima County guidelines, only 50 people are allowed in the complex at one time until June 29, when the number can increase to 100.
The 20-game schedule for each team is slated to run until the end of July. The number of people who can be at a field increases to 250 on July 20. These people counts include the players and coaches.
At yesterday’s workouts that included the Aztecs and Southeast Wildcats, the players wore facemasks when not on the field doing drills.
“The coaches are also wearing face coverings,” Leith said. “They can remove them when then are coaching at a safe distance from the players but once they approach a player, they are required to put it back on.
“We are being as thorough as we can, right down to wiping down baseballs after they are used.”
The players are taking advantage of this opportunity to acclimate themselves to all the precautions necessary to allow them to play. They will experience similar guidelines with they return to their colleges in August.
“It’s been hard these last couple of months not being able to be with the team, having to be on your own and not having these facilities available,” said Aztecs infielder Jacob Jacome, who redshirted at New Mexico Highlands this season after playing at Pima under his father, coach Ken Jacome.
“You just have to do what you can do on your own and get better on your own and hopefully we’ll be back to being a team (at New Mexico Highlands) soon. I feel really luck to have this opportunity (this summer) because lots of guys across the country do not have that opportunity.”
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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.