Coronavirus: ‘Changeup’ is word of the day as youth sports teams prepare to resume practice, play

‘Changeup’ is word of the day as youth sports teams prepare to resume practice, play

DAYTON — Miami Valley youth and high school sports organizations are in the process of re-evaluating their practices as they move toward reopening.

May 26 marks the date “non-contact” sports such as baseball, softball, tennis and golf can resume play in Ohio. It’s the same day the state’s gyms and fitness centers can re-open. It’s also the day high school “contact” sports can resume non-contact training and conditioning.

But even as these leagues resume, it’s clear they, like nearly every other Ohio industry and activity, will look a lot different. It will be like trying to hit a changeup.

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Officials with the Patterson Park Youth Baseball and Softball League in Dayton said they’re looking at a variety of social distancing options upon a return to play, like markers for fans spaced six feet apart, sanitizing stations, and masks for all adults, fans, and players who are not currently on the field.

But a league official said they’re also thinking about on-the-field changes as well.

“Safety has to come first, and then the game comes after that,” said Jim Murphy, league president.

Murphy said Patterson Park is considering having umpires call balls and strikes from behind the pitcher’s mound instead of behind home plate.

League officials also are re-thinking the normal practice of giving every player a chance to play the catcher position, since younger players typically have to share gear.

At the same time, league officials are wondering whether they could do without the position at all this summer… perhaps substituting nets and, therefore, eliminating stolen bases.

Other sports are dealing with similar restrictions and decision points.

According to guidance from the Ohio Department of Health, as high school sports teams return to training and conditioning, players must be spaced six feet apart and will not allowed to huddle or high five.

But Patterson Park league officials said adhering to restrictions will be well worth it to get athletes back on the field, playing the sports they love.

“Let me tell you, when you’re a batter and you put the bat into play, it’s still going to be baseball,” Murphy said.