Little League return to play webinar

Little League held a webinar on Thursday night via Facebook Live to talk about return to play for local leagues in 2020.

WILLIAMSPORT — Little League held its 2020 Resumption Webinar on Thursday evening through Facebook Live.

The organization released guidelines for leagues to follow as well as answered questions on issues district administrators, league presidents and coaches may have on the guidelines.

Little League canceled all tournaments and the Little League World Series for the first time since it was implemented in 1947.

At the time, Little League President Stephen Kenner said that it would be impossible to hold the events amid ongoing restrictions on large gatherings and travel.

But, Little League left the door open for local leagues to continue to try and put together a season. On Thursday, they set some guidelines to local leagues across the country that want to try and play a regular season.

Several coaches, parents and administrators took to the comments section of the Facebook Live to ask questions, including if players and coaches would be required to wear protective coverings while on the field.

“Players, especially at younger divisions, are not required to wear a cloth face covering while on the field during game play,” Little League’s digital media director Dallas Miller said. “Players will be permitted to wear a cloth face covering on the field during game play, if physically able to do so, based on any directive of a medical provider or individual determination of the player/parent/guardian.”

Little League stressed during the webinar that while they were setting guidelines through a 64-page document available online, it was up to the leagues to follow them.

“These recommendations are best practices to help mitigate the spread of Coronavirus while returning to play,” Miller said. “They are not mandated.”

Several new rules put into place include players’ equipment and the use by others of that equipment. Ideally, each player should have his own drink, bat, glove, helmet, etc.

Little League recommends that if equipment such as bats or helmets need to be shared, that they be disinfected after each use.

All players and coaches are also urged to have their body temperature taken before coming to any Little League activity such as a game or practice.

“We encourage volunteers and parents/guardians/caretakers of players to monitor body temperature and any symptoms prior to participating in a Little League activity, practice, or game,” said Miller. “They should not participate if any symptoms are present.”

Little League also asks leagues to follow any state directives.

“Leagues are encouraged to, first and foremost, follow all directives and guidance from their state and local government, and should ask their state governmental and health officials for any information available regarding resuming youth sports within the state,” Miller said.

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“For each game, there should only be the required team managers/coaches, umpires, and one (1) league administrator (i.e. Safety Officer, player agent, etc.) in attendance. In addition, it is suggested to stagger scheduling of all fields to reduce the number of players, volunteers, and spectators on the complex simultaneously.”

New guidelines stipulate only having one coach per team as well as just one umpire for plate meetings, as well as designating a small crew to do field prep before fans and players arrive.

Fans are asked to show up no more than 40 minutes before game time with onfield warmups lasting 30 minutes or less.

Fans, including parents, will be asked to watch from the outfield and maintain a distance of 6 feet from non-family members.

Leagues are asked to rotate balls every two innings at a minimum to limit as much contact as possible with players. Teams are also asked to have designated players stationed in the bleachers and outside the fences to retrieve any foul balls.

No sunflower seeds, gum or spitting will be permitted on the field or in the dugouts.

The biggest change will come from the position in which an umpire views the game.

“Umpires are permitted to be placed behind the pitcher’s mound/circle to call balls and strikes,” said Miller. “Umpires are encouraged to keep a safe distance from players as much as possible and wear protective gloves.”

Umpires are also asked to limit contact with the ball and allow players to retrieve passed balls or foul balls.

Only required officials are allowed in the dugout, with a district administrator somewhere on the premises.

There is also no food allowed to be sold at games whether it is a cooked food like a hamburger or in a package like chips.

Little League said they may revisit the policy once restrictions have been eased.

The last big question involved a movement that was trying to get the age restriction for next year’s Little League World Series relaxed to allow kids who would age out of the program to participate next year.

“Little League International is saddened to see all of its league age 12-year-old boys and girls miss out on what many view as the pinnacle of their Little League experience, as well as all of those who will be aging out of their respective division this year,” Miller said. “However, no adjustments will be made to the age restrictions at any level of the program for the 2021 season.”

The webinar wrapped up with a review of where to find the information online for the full list of guidelines and restrictions. Those can be found at littleleague.org/2020returntoplay.