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Guidelines offered up to start youth ball

The next time children head out the door to play youth baseball or softball, they will have to be careful not to forget not only their glove and bat but their hand sanitizer as well.

Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey held a virtual conference with physician and public health expert Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, former Los Angeles Angels GM Tony Reagins, Olympian softball player Jennie Finch, former Major League Baseball player Jimmy Rollins and Little League President and CEO Stephen Keener on Thursday morning to discuss how the state can return to playing youth sports.

“The bottom line for me is helping to figure out how to get kids playing sports again and safely,” Toomey said. “As the father of three kids, including a 10-year-old, I have a real personal interest in this. My son wants to get back to playing Little League baseball.”

Bhattacharya said playing this year is still possible.

“Baseball and softball are the absolute perfect place to start when it comes to resuming sports for a lot of reasons,” Bhattacharya said. “The nature of the sport itself leads to social distancing on the field imposed by the rules of the sport. There will need to be careful thinking about how to protect both the participants as well as parents and coaches in the area. Mask wearing, hand washing will all have to take some role in reopening sports.”

That task has already been started by Keener and his medical staff.

“We have tried to balance putting the proper perspectives in place,” Keener said. “Families and businesses need to get up and running, but only when it’s safe to do so. That’s when we will go full steam ahead and get back to playing baseball and softball. Our job is to provide resources together and provide them to our affiliates and programs. We have talked to numerous public health officials both at the state level and the federal level and come up with a best practices of resuming play document.”

The guidelines have been sent out to all youth programs affiliated with Little League, but for those that aren’t, they can be accessed at www.littleleague.org.

Keener made it clear the state government would need to give clearance for baseball and softball activities to begin before leagues could start implementing Little League’s safety precautions.

It is important to note that many of the youth baseball and softball leagues in the Mirror’s coverage area are not affiliated with the official Little League International company.

The suggestions, which are labeled the “Season Resumption Guide,” include but are not limited to the following guidelines:

n Two-week training period before any games are played.

n Set time limits on games of one hour and 45 minutes.

n Players bring their own hand sanitizer for personal use.

n Players, coaches, umpires and spectators should wear cloth facemasks unless physical limitations do not allow for it.

n No handshakes. Players are encouraged to tip their caps.

n Leave the field following games in 15 minutes or less.

n No teams should share drinks or food.

n Coaches and umpires should wear medical gloves.

n Players should stay 6 feet apart in the dugout and be assigned spots on the bench.

n Players should have their own helmet, glove, bat and catcher’s equipment. When these things must be shared, they must be cleaned after each use and be given time to dry before using them again.

n New balls must be rotated in at least every two innings.

n Foul balls should not be collected by spectators and instead should be retrieved by a coach, player or umpire.

n No gum, seeds or spitting is allowed.

n Umpires are permitted to stand behind the pitcher’s mound or circle to call pitches.

n Do not arrive more than 40 minutes early for a game.

n Spectators must stay 6 feet apart, wear cloth masks and are encouraged to bring their own seating.

n No food or concession sales will be permitted.

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