There is value in the badge.
Games have started for Greenville Little Leagues baseball under new COVID-19 safety rules that include each player having one badge per game to give to a designated fan representative. The badge must be worn with a lanyard and displayed to serve basically as a ticket to Elm Street Park, which is currently allowing only 25 fans at games. Support staff members, like a site coordinator and volunteers to track pitch counts, do not count toward that number.
A damp early part of Friday didn’t deter Kiwanis and Brown & Wood from beginning as planned at 4 p.m., kicking off a full slate of games Friday and Saturday for an unprecedented mid-June start to the season.
“They’ve had so much energy to burn off,” longtime GLL commissioner Brian Weingartz said of the pre-teen players.
Teams in the Pitt County Girls Softball League have been practicing in preparation for games to begin Monday in the 6U, 8U and 10U divisions. The season is slated to last into late July.
Practices at the spacious, four-field Sara Law Softball Complex in Winterville helped prepare for the unknown that will likely exist for the start of games. Bleachers already were blocked off to help promote social distancing.
“Practices are supposed to go an hour and 30 minutes, but we’ve been cutting them so the last 15 minutes is dedicated to cleaning to prepare for the next group coming in,” PCGSL board member and secretary Emery Smith said. “We’re all signing a waiver and I don’t really know what it will look like next week, but the big thing is maintaining social distancing and making sure that our parents are spread out between all fields. A big thing is to not congregate out there, but I’ve seen a difference and you can tell people are mindful of the situation.”
East Carolina recently amped up voluntary football workouts to highlight its phased return model. Ryan Robinson, the Pirates’ executive associate athletics director for external operations, said Friday the department’s first set of COVID-19 tests all came back negative.
Fifty-seven people were tested, including 32 football players.
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association is allowing voluntary workouts to resume Monday.
Some Little League parents said Friday that they will alternate who gets the badge to attend games.
“We’ll alternate and we’ll divide and conquer, because what is most important is that they are playing,” said Kim Chambers, whose son, Caleb, is on the Kiwanis team. “He loves coming here and we’ve been ready for him to play. The Weingartz family and the league and the city have done a great job getting this ready so that they can play. We want them to be able to play. It’s about them and not us.”
Babe Ruth baseball games are scheduled for Guy Smith Stadium starting June 22.
The Greenville Area Summer Swim League season was suspended. Board members plan to meet later in June to discuss the possibility of resuming for a shortened season.
Sports slowly coming back has brought about various forms of excitement and anticipation. For Weingartz, the task of distributing player uniforms was extra enjoyable.
“It does seem a little bit different, because this time there was just so much anticipation,” he said. “Handing out uniforms is sometimes drudgery, but this year, it’s really been a lot of fun.”
Weingartz has remained consistent in his message that kids are excited to play and that parents need to adhere to social distancing rules.
A jumbo-sized hand sanitizer bottle sat at the main Elm Street Park entrance. The main dugouts are limited to three players.
The open-air bullpen extensions to the dugouts allow for more players to space out and stand and watch while they are not on the field.
“Between the lines, everything should be good,” Weingartz said. “The umpires might be a little rusty, but they’re ready. The biggest concern we have is there are a lot of places from outside the fence where you can see the game pretty good. We’re trying to get the word out to people that we do not want 25 to 50 or 100 people standing behind the fences, especially at Elm Street. ... They do not want people out there and congregating and watching the games outside the fence, so we are streaming all the games both at Elm Street and the Perkins Complex. It’s not as good as being there, but it’s the next best thing.”