Magee Park has new signage and ground markers to remind spectators to practice safe social distancing while watching their kids play ball this summer. Michael Hallisey / Spotlight News
GLENMONT — Play ball!
Ballplayers and fans will soon hear the umpire say those words at Magee Park. Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifted virus-related restrictions that prevented youth sports from congregating on local ballfields. The governor’s office gave the OK on Monday, June 15 to allow youth sports to start.
Tri-Village Little League will be among the scores of organizations to begin playing ball on Monday, July 6.
The move from Albany seemingly saves youth sports from the clutches of a coronavirus pandemic. There will, however, be reminders of the strange, new world we now live in.
“I’ve been telling everyone this is not going to be a normal year at Magee,” said Paul Matrose, player agent and spokesperson for Tri-Village Little League, “but we are going to do our best to get the kids out there and play baseball.”
League volunteers already had Magee Park dressed for a new season. The grass was mowed, the infield dirt was freshly raked, but the addition of public service signs and hand-painted circles on the grown lent indication that social distancing will be enforced to keep COVID-19 spreading at the park.
Matrose said the league has been working towards this day for nearly two months. League officials have attended regular meetings online and have kept close observation on how other states have facilitated their seasons.
“Our safety agent Lou Faiola, along with our vice president Michael O’Connell, really led the charge and have done an outstanding job,” said Matrose. “We really wanted to give our 12-year olds a chance to play their last year in Little League. If we could do it safely, and there was community support, we felt it was our duty to make it happen.”
The league approached parents to ask how comfortable they would be to a new season with strict safety guidelines. Parents of younger children felt less inclined to have their kid play ball this year, Matrose said, and they received refunds. Parents of older children, however, felt more comfortable. Within the majors level — the league’s oldest age bracket — Matrose said more than 90 percent of families decided to return.
“I think it’s important to note that we felt it was imperative that we had community support,” Matrose said. “In fact, over the past week, we’ve had several additional registrations.”
There will be a season for players in the majors, intermediate and younger farm team levels at Magee Park this year. The league had already decided to cancel the season for t-ball teams as managing safety measures with the younger players would be too difficult.
Crowds will be limited to two spectators for each player. Everyone in the stands will be required to wear face coverings at all times, whether they can maintain social distancing or not. Matrose said the league felt it was important that the kids in the league see that visual of parents practicing safe social behavior. In addition to the social distancing measures undertaken by spectators, scheduled games will be staggered to prevent games from playing on neighboring fields simultaneously.
Parents will also be held responsible for conducting health assessments on their ballplayers before each game. An online module was developed to allow parents to submit their assessments online. If no assessment is received, their child does not play.
“It feels great. We’ve been working hard the last two months trying to put a plan in place to safety play if we were given the green light,” said Matrose. “It’s a chance to get them back to semi-normalcy in a safe manner. We’re very excited to get the kids back together and have some fun.”
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.