Local coaches look to get summer baseball league going

DOVER — Much of Tripp Keister’s life has centered around baseball.

So it’s hardly surprising that the longtime coach is missing the game right now.

But rather than just wait for the sport to come back, Keister is trying to help resurrect it in Delaware this summer.

The former Delaware State and Wesley College coach — with the help of the local baseball community — is spearheading an effort to put together a baseball “league” that would start up later in June.

Dover High coach Dave Gordon thinks there would be a lot of interest in a summer baseball league. (File photo)

“I felt like these kids had sacrificed enough,” said Keister, a Delaware resident who is the manager of the Washington Nationals’ Class A team in Fredericksburg, Va.

There would be one division for current high school seniors/graduates and another for college players with Delaware ties. So far, there’s been enough interest for seven teams in each division.

“I tried to put myself in their position of missing their sport. I can’t imagine what it would be like. I kind of felt like, when the time is right and everyone says we’re allowed to do this, let’s get something going. It just seemed like everything was just shut down.

“If I have to start a league — even if it’s just four teams — let’s just do it. It kind of has evolved into this because I think a lot of people want to play baseball. … It’s crazy how this thing has really snowballed.”

With the world dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, there are still plenty of hurdles to clear before anyone takes the field, of course.

For starters, Delaware will have to move to Phase 2 in the virus shutdown to clear the path for the league. That could happen on June 15.

The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association still has to sign off on it and playing fields have to be found.

At the same time, Keister has been in contact with the Governor’s office and umpire’s associations, insurance has been lined up and there has been no shortage of interest from players and coaches.

“There’s people every day that have gotten my email or called,” said Keister. “My goal is to try to get as many kids playing as we can.

“Some of the people are thinking they can’t get the team together by the 15th. But, if they get together after that, we’ll try to schedule as many games as we can and go from there.”

Keister said any interested players should contact their local high school coach.

Dover High coach Dave Gordon has been involved with trying to get the league off the ground.

“I put it out there and I got a big response back,” he said. “Kids are just waiting to do something, I think.

“I think Tripp has a great idea. A lot of the coaches in the state are going to try to support him on that. … It’s all about getting kids the opportunity to get back on the field and get those reps that they missed.”

The games would be played with some changes to help try to prevent the potential spread of the virus.

For instance, the home plate umpire would stand behind the pitcher, rather than crouch over the catcher behind the plate. Players also wouldn’t be able to share equipment and coaches would wear masks.

“We want to do what’s right for the kids and everyone involved,” said Keister.

Usually, college players take part in summer leagues this time of year — all of which have been canceled. But some rules have already been established.

For example, only four players from any one school can be on a particular squad. That’s to prevent colleges from putting their entire team on one summer-league roster.

At first, Keister said coaches would use pitchers cautiously considering that most of them have had only limited workouts lately.

Records and team standings probably wouldn’t be kept, at least at first. Keister, though, said there’s always the chance of having a few weeks of playoffs at the end.

Keister’s goal is to have every team play about 20 games by August 1.

“I love baseball and I love Delaware,” said Keister. “We need to make sure that these kids get an opportunity to keep playing baseball in this state. … This might be the only chance they get to play for a while.”

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.