Even though games may look different than in seasons past, the head of Baseball Nova Scotia says there’s still a chance competition will return to the diamond this summer.
On Monday, the organization announced it would be entering the first phase of its “Return to Play” plan on June 15.
Baseball Nova Scotia executive director Brandon Guenette says phase one primarily focuses on players returning to training and not on structured games.
He says the phase follows the current provincial public health guideline limiting public gatherings to 10 people or less.
“Right now, organizations can get going as long as they have those groups of 10 out on the field,” Guenette said in an interview Monday, “and the safety and personal hygiene guidelines that are within the document are adhered to.”
There are several other restrictions in the first phase, including dugouts being off limits to athletes, as well as no sharing of water bottles, food, helmets, gloves, bats or training equipment unless they’re disinfected.
Other changes include:
The second phase, Guenette says, would be a return to competition, but will be reviewed in the coming weeks and depend on whether public health opts to increase the size of public gatherings.
“We aren’t shutting the door just yet,” said Guenette. “We’re still optimistic we can offer some form of competition.
“But our timelines are really going to be all based on what the core public health guidelines are.”
How the game will be played
If and when baseball games do return to Nova Scotia, Guenette says players and parents are going to notice a few changes.
Though the second phase is still pending approval, it could include umpires calling balls and strikes from behind the pitcher’s mound, limiting the amount of tag plays and the elimination of stealing.
Guenette says a working committee of people across the province has been formed to discuss some of the issues that would have to be addressed to ensure the sport can be played safely.
“We’re doing a risk assessment of our own sport and addressing them the best we can, and figuring out how we can best mitigate those risks.”
Dan O’Leary, whose 11-year-old son Owen and nine-year-old Seth have been waiting eagerly to get back on the field, says Monday’s announcement is a good starting point.
“Even practice, we were excited. Just to give the kids something to do,” he said. “Our boys love sports. They’re sports enthusiasts. From hockey to baseball, they play competitive year-round.”
“To have the hockey season cut short was a disappointment to them … so to have baseball has just been one of the most positive things to happen.”
For Owen and Seth, the sole prospect of just returning to the diamond is music to their ears.
“I’m excited to get back on the field, getting back to practicing, seeing my coaches and teammates,” said Owen.
“It’s just been a lot different,” said Seth. “We missed spring hockey and stuff. It’s been a few months that we haven’t done anything, so we’re really excited to play.”
Breakdown in communication
On May 29, Premier Stephen McNeil and chief public health officer Dr. Robert Strang announced the easing of several public health restrictions, including the increase in public gatherings from five to 10.
Guenette says he wasn’t given a heads up prior to the announcement and was left scrambling to send a message out to associations.
“We weren’t aware of organized sport being approved for groups of 10 until after it was announced,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we got a message out quick that (the announcement) doesn’t necessarily mean our associations are ready to mobilize just yet, and that our specific plan for the sport is available.
O’Leary, too, says he and his family feels somewhat left in dark when it comes to what public health restrictions will be eased next.
“It seems are last minute when it comes to a decision being made,” he said. “My wife and I are both teachers and we’re finding out a lot of the things in education the same way the parents are at the same exact time.
“You would think some of these organizations would hear ahead of time, so it’s a little disappointing that they’re not getting a heads up.”