NISKAYUNA — Anyone traveling past any of the three town-owned parks in Niskayuna is accustomed to seeing kids, families and over 450 baseball players at Blatnick Park competing as part of the Niskayuna Baseball League.
Now, the fields are set, the signs are up, but there is no activity on the base paths.
That initial curve ball was sent on March 15, another continued when the New York State PAUSE was extended and on May 14, and now a memo from Niskayuna Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed may put the entire youth baseball season in jeopardy.
Syed has extended the local state of emergency and provided an outline for the town-owned playgrounds.
River Road Park has reopened, Jeff Blatnick Park will re-open May 30 and Avon Crest Park will re-open June 6.
While the facilities will open, the message to youth sports organizations could be a potential third strike.
The notice said the town attorney had advised that youth sports, based on the stated “[n]on-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason (e.g. parties, celebrations or other social events) are canceled or postponed at this time.”
Organized sports are not likely to begin until Phase Four of the NY Forward plan — which, optimistically stated, will not begin until July 1.
Niskayuna Baseball League, which is affiliated with the Babe Ruth League and Cal Ripken Baseball, leases the fields from the town.
March 15 was a memorable date for Niskayuna Baseball League President Dave Fields.
“Ironically that the deadline for registration for families, sponsorships to help the league, [was] virtually the date that everything shut down originally,” Fields said in a phone interview. “The good news was that we did have all of our sponsorships in by then. This community has been awesome, they always supported us tremendously.”
Even without games in progress those funds are needed by the league.
“The league does incur some fixed costs that don’t go away — field maintenance, upwards of $10k that we pay to have those fields mowed,” Fields said. “If you don’t keep them mowed, then you’re looking at damage later that you’re going to have to fix.
“Uniforms are already purchased and some of them can be used next year, the recreation uniforms, but the travel uniforms have players’ names on them. If they play next year, they’re not going to fit.”
Fields said that player registrations and sponsorships raise approximately $100,000 per year for the organization.
“That goes right back out to purchase uniforms, baseballs, pay umpires, field maintenance and all the costs we incur,” Fields said.
In April, a poll of registered parents found that 85 percent were willing to play later into July versus the traditional end of recreational season in June. But a poll taken this month shows that only 68 to 70 percent would play into July and August.
“If we have a season, we’re fine,” Fields said. “If we don’t, are we pushing pause and planning for the 2021 season? That’s the most financially safe option for the league, refunds will be a little trickier.
“If 30 to 35 percent of the league wants refunds and doesn’t want to play, because of the fixed costs we incur and because of the breakdowns into levels and teams, it might not be possible to financially sustain the league at this point.”
Little League International affiliated organizations are feeling the pain.
The parent organization canceled its 2020 World Series held annually in Williamsport, Pa., and preceding regional tournaments April 30.
“I talked to my section leaders and district administrators and our thought was since the Little League World Series was canceled, theoretically you could have July and August for their regular season,” District 11 Commissioner Dan DeCelle said during a phone interview. They’re going to leave it up to your region, your district and your president.”
District 11 includes Saratoga Springs, Mechanicville-Stillwater, Hudson Falls and Glens Falls.
He said that Hudson Falls Little League, part of District 11, had already canceled its entire season.
Fields hopes that there will be baseball this summer in Niskayuna
“The league took the stance that this isn’t going to be up to us, we’re looking for guidance from the town, the state, our parent organization (Babe Ruth Baseball, Inc.),” Fields said. “We just have to be ready so that if 450 kids want to play baseball, we can do that, if we’re given the green light.”
Correction 6:36 a.m. 5/20: An earlier version of this story misspelled the Niskayuna Supervisor Yasmine Syed’s first name.