Games are still on hold
Slowly but surely, though, youth sports are starting to come back after a spring that’s seen area facilities and fields largely empty because of restrictions related to COVID-19.
Earlier this month, Niskayuna Youth Baseball travel teams started practicing while following social-distancing guidelines.
“It was a lot of fun just to get back on the field,” Tommy Titsworth, a 15-year-old playing on the league’s U16 squad, said at Monday’s practice at Jeff Blatnick Park. “It was pretty boring being inside for however many months it was.”
Niskayuna Youth Baseball worked with town officials to find a way to start practicing, even if games are still a few weeks away from starting up. According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on July 6 six “low risk” sports — baseball, softball, crew, gymnastics, field hockey, and cross county — will be able to resume contests with CDC protocols in place.
“It all started with the governor’s May 22 executive order, which said non-essential gatherings of less than 10 were permitted so long as social distancing and protocols were in effect,” Niskayuna Youth Baseball president and 16U Babe Ruth coach Dave Fields said Monday. “That’s when the town and our league started talking and realized we could do half-team practices — coaches and six players, keeping it under 10.
“We came up with a plan to sanitize baseballs; Schenectady County helped us out with a lot of hand sanitizer, a jug for every team. We closed the dugouts. All the drills we are doing are completely socially distant, so no one has to be near each other for anything we are doing at this point.”
“We’ve been communicating with our youth sports organizations as this unfolded and as things progressed,” Niskayuna Councilwoman Rosemarie Perez Jaquith said. “We’ve been communicating about Phase 2, and if youth sports were interested in operating under this small group instruction, these are the kinds of things we would be looking for them to take responsibility for — setting their own safety plan, but with these parameters.”
As chairperson of the Highway, Parks and Recreation Committee, safety was a top priority.
“We were pretty extensive in our coverage,” Perez-Jaquith said. “We wrote it all down, we did an addendum to the licensing agreement. It’s been a great model that we plan to use for other sports, including softball.”
On Monday, half of the U16 Babe Ruth squad — six players and three coaches — took part in fielding drills in the outfield and infield.
“It’s not much different,” Tanner Wood, 15 of Niskayuna said Monday. “I guess you have to do a little bit more running, to cover the field more.”
When games are able to start up in July, the Niskayuna squad is expected to be ready to face other area teams that are also working out under the small group guidelines.
“It will be cool to be back playing games because it’s been so long,” Wood said. “It’s been almost a year since I played a baseball game.”
Perez-Jaquith said the Niskayuna Girls Softball League anticipates hosting two tournaments July 11 and 18.
“We think it’s a good model and I was down there today to watch and see how the kids did and the coaches,” Perez-Jaquith said. “They did a great job.”
Reach Stan Hudy at [email protected] or @StanHudy on Twitter.