Daily Times: Given green light, softball ready to rattle and roll, but not hand-shake
By Terry Toohey
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It’s time for adult softball players to dig into the closet and get those bat bags and other equipment out of storage. There will be a season in Delaware County, after all.
Softball, like every other sport, has been on hold in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. However, with the county moving into the green phase Friday, which allows for outdoor gatherings up to 250, several area leagues have plans to get under way in the coming weeks. Some leagues will go with a shortened season while others will use a hybrid summer/fall model instead of the traditional spring/summer version.
The Marcus Hook weeknight and Sunday leagues, along with the Millennium Sunday League are going with the summer/fall version, while the Brandywine Valley and Ches-Del Senior Softball Leagues, and the Penn-Del Over-50 League will play an abbreviated version of its spring/summer seasons. Two leagues, the Suburban Women’s Slow Pitch and Lawrence Park, will not play this season.
“We’re on our way,” said Millennium League president Joe Organek.
Safety will be a priority with the sport’s return. Under USA Softball (formerly ASA) recommendations, pre- and post-game handshakes and high fives are prohibited. Players can line up on the foul lines and wave. No huddles are allowed and social distancing should be practiced in the dugout. Players can wear masks but it is not a requirement, and should not share equipment. Bats should be wiped down with a disinfectant after each use.
Some kinks still have to be worked out, namely field availability because permits cannot be issued until an area goes green, and all leagues have implemented safety precautions based on CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines for youth and adult sports.
The Ches-Del League, which plays on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, looks to be the first league to get under way. League president Joe Morgan said he hopes the league can start play next week, hopefully on Tuesday, and would run through the end of August. In a normal year, the league would be in the playoffs at this time of year.
“We’re ready to go,” Morgan said. “We’re just waiting for the permission to do so. And we have a whole list of safety measures. Players are encouraged to practice social distancing, bring their own water and wipe down bats, things like that.”
The Penn-Del Over 50 League intends to start on July 6 and play a 10- or 12- game season followed by the playoffs, league president Mickey Witz said in a text. The Gold Division in the Brandywine Valley League looks to start on July 20 and the Silver Division on Aug. 4 and go through October. The Gold Division plays on Monday and Wednesday mornings and the Silver Division on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
The Marcus Hook weeknight league, which consists of 12 teams, is slated to play a full 11-week, 22game schedule beginning the week of July 13 and running through mid-October, including playoffs. There will be no fall league this year. The league will take off for the annual Champs ‘n’ Charity Classic and Labor Day. The bestof- 3 championship series is slated for Oct. 15, according to league president Rich Malascalza.
The Hook Sunday league will begin on July 19, taking off for the weekends of the C ‘n’ C and Labor Day. The competitive division championship series will be Oct. 11 and the rec league final series is slated for Oct. 18.
“I’m just glad we’re ready to get started,” Malascalza said. “I was informed by the borough that once we went green we could turn in our permits, so I’ll be turning in our permits this Friday.”
Millennium Sunday Leagues also will start July 19 and go until October. There will be no fall league this season. The number of teams still has to be determined. The league initially had 46 teams, but that number is down to 40, Organek said, as some teams have chosen not to play this season and others are having trouble getting sponsorship because the restaurant and bar industry has been hard hit by the pandemic. Organek said teams have until July 1 to make a final decision on whether or not they will play this season.
The league is also asking, but not requiring, each player to sign an assumed risk waiver that is part of USA Softball’s Back to the Ballpark recommendations. Players who choose not to sign will still be allowed to play.
“We’re going to follow Gov. Wolf’s guidelines and inject a couple of our own, just for the league and we’re going to use the waiver form from the national office,” Organek said. “That combination will make it a lot safer and be better for everybody.”
Spectators will be able to attend games but are recommended to bring their own chairs and not sit in the bleachers, wear masks and practice social distancing.
“We went to states this weekend in (USSSA) in York,” Malascalza said. “It was softball as softball. Everyone kept their distance. It was normal softball, but people kept to their own crews. It looked like a normal softball tournament to me so I’m just telling everyone to use their heads.”