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Concord Little League getting ready to play ball

  • In this July 13, 2018, file photo, a Concord Little League All-Star slides in safely as a Laconia shortstop tries to apply the tag at Grappone Field in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The nine and ten-year-old Concord All Star Little League State Champs warm at practice at Memorial Field.

Monitor staff
Published: 6/2/2020 3:16:27 PM

Baseball fields that have been empty for months will finally see some action this week as Concord Little League opens for practice. Games won’t be played until Gov. Chris Sununu gives the green light for that phase of the reopening, but when it’s time to play ball there will be no shortage of ready teams in Concord.

The league sent out a survey earlier in the spring asking parents if their children would still be interested in playing despite COVID-19 and 87% responded that they wanted to play.

“We’re on pace to have the same number of teams as we’ve had the last couple of years,” said Derek Mercier, who is in his first year as the league president after serving as the vice president last year and on the board of directors before that.

The practices and the games themselves, however, will take on a new look.

Sununu’s reopening task force announced a two-phase plan to reopen the state’s youth sports league on May 22. Using that plan, as well as guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Little League Baseball International, Concord Little League drafted its own set of rules for players, coaches and parents to follow while participating in the league this year.

“We kind of combined all those guidelines and then added some of our own,” Mercier said. “All the little leagues in our district are basically using the same plan.”

The first phase of the plan allows for practices with groups of 10 or less and outdoors only. Before players even enter the practice area, the coach will take their temperature and ask them screening questions like have they been sneezing or coughing or have they been around anyone who is sick. Both the player and the coach will wear masks during this process. The coach will keep a record of players’ temperature for every practice and if a touchless thermometer isn’t available for the team, players must have their temperatures taken at home and anyone with a temperature at or exceeding 100.4 will not be allowed to practice.

After they’re done being screened, the players will sanitize their hands before removing their mask (each team will have hand sanitizer and disinfectants) and then will store their equipment in a designated, socially distanced area.

All players must use their own helmets, gloves and bats, and the league will help those who can’t get their own equipment. At the end of each drill where more than one person touched a ball, whoever used that ball will sanitize their hands.

All the players and coaches will maintain 6-foot distancing during practice and parents will not be allowed in the training area and must also maintain social distancing. There will be frequent hand sanitizing and no spitting of seeds, and no sharing of water bottles, snacks or gum.

The second phase incorporates all these guidelines while adding more rules for the actual games. These will begin when the governor permits gatherings of up to 50 people, and that will be the maximum number of participants in the game, including coaches and umpires, but not including spectators. There will be no concession stands allowed and a league official will be in charge of monitoring and cleaning the restrooms, which will be locked unless someone requests to use them.

Each team will have their own game balls to use while on defense so teams don’t have to share baseballs. Umpires will touch the baseball as little as possible. Umpires in the field will wear masks but the umpire behind the plate is not required to do so. All spectators must remain 6-feet apart from anyone not living in their household.

A complete set of the Phase 1 and Phase 2 guidelines can be found at the league’s web site, concordnhlleague.org. Players and parents must both sign a waiver stating they have read and understood, and will follow, those guidelines before they can participate.

Concord Little League has offered refunds for families who registered before the pandemic but now don’t feel comfortable with their children participating. Mercier said parents for about 40 of the 200 children who had registered asked for refunds. Despite losing those kids, Mercier feels like the registration numbers are comparable to numbers from the last few years.

“We thought people would want to do this just because they want to get out and do something, something athletic, and people aren’t really going on summer vacations this year,” Mercier said. “I know I want it. I need to get my kids out of the house and doing something.”

The league may reduce the size of the T-ball and AA teams, which are for its youngest players, to five or six players per team. This will make it easier to maintain social distancing and all of the new guidelines, and it will help the league maintain the same number of teams despite the slight dip in overall numbers. Plus, like Mercier said, “you don’t really need outfielders in T -ball.”




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