I’m pretty sure it goes without saying, we are all anxious to begin sports. Any and all would be great, but what we’re missing on these warm, spring afternoons…is BASEBALL. During these last couple of months in quarantine, we have been able to run around outside with our kids, play catch, maybe hit a few balls and it got me thinking- youth baseball COULD make a comeback. While most sports do not adhere to the restrictions we have in place during the Covid-19 pandemic, I believe, with a few minor changes to a typical game, we can start playing baseball and softball again.
Now, I am no pandemic expert, but hear me out. Baseball is already primarily a game in which players require little to no physical contact from one another on defense in order to cover ground. This doesn’t change with maybe the job of the catcher as an exception, which I will get to shortly. The trickiest part of defense will be when a ball is hit into the gap and multiple fielders will need to track down a live ball. It may cause a moment of close proximity, but they should not be on top of one another.
A NEW DUGOUT
The most creative solution to allow for social distancing would be when your team bats. Sitting in the dugout just won’t work, you barely have 6 inches at times for space, so 6 feet is out of the question. But, there is a long right and left field line at most youth ballparks which could be used as an extended dugout. Each player gets a designated spot where they bring their own chair and equipment and is not allowed to sit anywhere else throughout the game. When running on and off the field, they always go to their designated spots. Batters are required to keep their helmets and bats by their chair, and at the end of the game, you pack up gear including chairs.
DISTANCE THE CATCHER ONLY TO RETRIEVE
Batters hit as normal, but the catcher will be at a safer distance back. He would not “catch” as he normally would behind the batter, he would stay further back to return the ball to the pitcher. Also, no tagging. (Or tag with glove below waist.)
SMALL SHIFTS IN RUNNING BASES
When running bases, you add the second (foul ground) first base so the runner can keep a bit of distance from the first baseman when running down the line. Running the bases is where the most change would need to occur. There would be no base stealing, rundowns, or holding runners on by the first baseman. He would play his typical position and more importantly, there is no tagging or leading off the base by the runner. Everything would be a force out. A fielder at second base would act like a first baseman instead of tagging the runner. Ball beats the player to the base, he/she’s out. While we navigate through this strange time, I believe these small changes could bring back the game we all love.
Is this ideal? No. Is it temporary? Absolutely. But it COULD work for youth baseball. Let's get back to playing! #SWINGAWAY