After months without baseball in Sedalia, it took a team effort to handle the comebacker.
Sedalia Parks and Recreation, the Pettis County Health Center and community organizers collaborated to establish health and safety guidelines to help combat the spread of coronavirus during youth sports programs in city parks.
“It’s about providing some opportunities for youth baseball in the community,” said Brad Grupe, who organized the Sedalia Competitive Baseball League and the 14th Annual Bandit Shootout scheduled to begin 8:30 a.m. Saturday. “I’m proud of this. There are a lot of folks who helped get it to this point. I didn’t want to take a year off.”
Competitive baseball celebrated its first pitch this week in step with youth parks and recreation programs. Both parties compiled precautionary guidelines to address concerns from county health officials. Details from the “Play Ball Plan” include: playing doubleheaders, reassigning spectator seating, limiting dugout attendance and hiring field marshals to enforce guidelines.
Teams are subject to forfeit should fans ignore guidelines. Recreation coordinator Tanner McKee said those disobeying the rules will be asked to leave.
“If we go up there and ask them and they refuse, they’ll be asked to leave the park and we’ll advise them, this is for the kids sake,” McKee said. “I get it sucks we can’t sit where we want to sit, but at the end of the day it's not so much for you, it’s for the kids.”
“Play Ball” guidelines were subject to assessment from Pettis County Health Center Administrator JoAnn Martin. She said that while the guidelines are helpful, they are not effective unless participants follow them.
“We worked on it for quite a while, had some back and forth about what would be as protective as possible,” Martin said. “The bottom line is that everybody has got to pitch in and cooperate to make it all work. This is a good opportunity. In sports, we teach kids there are rules to follow. This is part of that learning process.”
There are 31 teams in the Sedalia Competitive Baseball League, which plays twice a week, and 52 teams scheduled to play in the Bandit Shootout on Saturday and Sunday.
Grupe said baseball is conducive to social distancing. Contests will feature one less umpire, teams will not share baseballs and contact during play is brief. Martin said that while outdoors activity does decrease viral load, reducing risk, one cannot reduce the risk to zero.
“You still need to practice social distancing,” Martin said. “Stay home if you’re sick. Wash your hands. If you are a high-risk person, you need to really consider whether going out is what you need to do. And certainly if you can’t maintain that 6-foot distance, wear a mask.”
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2.