Delaware youth sports stuck on sideline through crisis

Local youth sports fields will remain empty for several weeks at least due to coronavirus precautions. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

DOVER — Thousands of young athletes are sidelined as the global coronavirus crisis continues.

Up to 4,000 local baseball and softball players won’t swing their bats for nearly two months at best due to precautionary measures.

District I Little League’s boundaries stretch from Milford to Middletown and every community in between.

Districts II and III cover Sussex and New Castle counties, adding even more inactive ballplayers to the mix.

On Monday, Little League International — operating more than 6,000 leagues in more than 84 nations — recommended that programs suspend operations through no earlier than May 11, an extension of the previous April 6 date.

About 1,050 Delaware Union soccer players are idle as well, and one travel team tournament already has been canceled. An original start date for games had been delayed until at least April 4 as the week began.

On Monday afternoon, the Delaware Youth Soccer Association suspended all affiliated and sanctioned activities through April 1.

“DYSA will evaluate conditions every two weeks along with US Youth Soccer to determine when it is appropriate to reinstate our affiliated and sanctioned activities,” an announcement read in part.

Milford Little League President Lance Skinner said his son “has taken it pretty well at this point” as players waited through the delay.

The Union (partnered with Kent County Parks and Recreation) plans to send members “individual skills to work on at home and for our older teams we will be sending them game videos to do game analysis and virtual team meetings after,” said Director of Coaching Sebastian Acosta-Nijamkin on Monday morning.

“It’s definitely a challenge for us,” he said, “but it’s a challenge for us to stay on our toes and keep our kids engaged.”

Still, there’s no matching the feeling of making a big save, hitting a game-winning double or passing to a teammate in stride for a quick goal in a competitive setting with fans.

“The kids are the whole reason why all of us are involved and if activities keep getting shut down and they don’t have places to go, then they’re going to be stuck at home not playing baseball and softball,” said District I Director Biff Newnam, whose organization will heed Little League International’s recommdendation.

According to Mr. Skinner, Milford Little League will provide updates on Facebook and website.

“We ask that everyone be patient and remember that the Little League Board members are all volunteers,” he said.

“We will be transparent throughout this process and will provide updates as we receive them. In the meantime, stay healthy and let’s work together as a community to overcome this pandemic.”

For the time being at least, Dover Little League President Bill Leslie said he’ll miss “The excitement every time I go to the ballpark, every time I see kids show up with equipment and watching their development as the season goes on.”

Necessary steps taken

Stressing that the delay was inevitable because “Everyone should take the necessary steps to live,” Mr. Leslie also said “It’s a major concern to everyone in sports, which are just a means for entertainment.

“Little League is a takeoff from that …”

While hope remains to play some sort of season, Smyrna Little League President Gordon Gelley says health and safety concerns must rule all decisions.

“I don’t like to cancel everything but I think the wise thing to do is to hold off and be safe rather than sorry,” he said.

There’s been little to no questions from parents about the tentative schedule so far, Mr. Gelley said.

“I think everyone can read the paper and watch the news to know what’s going on,” he said.

In Marydel-Hartly, league officials are using email and group texts to communicate, since in-person board member and coach gatherings are off for now.

“It’s tough on everybody these days no matter what you’re doing,” President Scott Murray said.

According to Little League International on its website, “It is our sincere hope that we can find ways to bring everyone back to the Little League fields this season, whether that’s later this spring or throughout the summer.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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