Poplar Bluff Park Department baseball, softball leagues getting started under virus guidelines
DAR FILE/Brian Rosener
POPLAR BLUFF — There will be no postgame handshakes and umpires will be calling balls and strikes from a different location, but baseball and softball will be played at McLane Park this summer.
Lanny Corcimiglia, director of the Poplar Bluff Parks and Recreation Department, said procedures are being put in place to make the youth and adult summer leagues as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re not going to put in special rules” in how the game is played, Corcimiglia said, but there will be guidelines for players, coaches and spectators to follow.
Registration for the youth baseball and softball leagues ended Tuesday and Corcimiglia said the first meeting with coaches was to be held Thursday night.
Among the guidelines being put in place are dugouts will be disinfected after each game and coaches will be instructed to disinfect equipment as needed. Players may not share equipment without it first being disinfected.
There will be no handshakes or fist bumps before, during or after the game.
“Please tip your hat to the opponents after the game from your dugouts,” reads Park Department’s guidelines to coaches.
Corcimiglia said the Park Department is working with the Butler County Health Department to determine safe practices.
Spectators will be asked to remain outside the fence lines and to practice social distancing. The number of bleacher seats available will be lowered and spectators are asked to “strongly consider using face coverings while in public.”
Park Department employees will have their temperatures taken and will wear gloves and face coverings. The concession stand will be open with one staff member handling money and another only handling food.
There will be hand sanitizer stations onsite for use for players, coaches and spectators.
Restrooms will be open and will be cleaned and disinfected at intervals as will the water fountains.
Everyone is encouraged to bring their own water and only drink from their own clearly-marked container.
Players who are feeling ill or have a temperature should stay home and “all vulnerable individuals should be aware of the risk of being in a public location,” the Park Department guidelines say.
Corcimiglia said he’s considering relaxing participation rules already in place to not penalize teams with players using precaution. At least eight players are required to avoid forfeiting a game but that team takes an out every time the ninth batter in the order comes around.
“The guidelines may change because it will be the middle to end of June whenever we start playing,” Corcimiglia said.
The Park Department program features four leagues for baseball and three divisions for softball for players age 8-15 in the Poplar Bluff R-1 School District.
Corcimiglia said the Park Department is taking players who normally play in the Ozark Foothills leagues since that organization canceled it season. He said the total number of players is “probably about 100-150 short of what we’ve had in the past.”
While the registration deadline has passed, Corcimiglia said players wanting to play can still be placed on teams.
There is a $15 registration fee, but if that is a financial hardship a scholarship may provide for full or partial payment, Corcimiglia said. There is also some equipment that has been donated to the Park Department that is available to players that need it.
The registration fee was added this season, Corcimiglia said, to help offset costs for umpires, scorekeepers and league upkeep.
McLane Park has already hosted one youth tournament for an outside organization and is scheduled to host more during the weekends all summer, Corcimiglia said.
Normally the league games will be starting up this week. Corcimiglia said games will not start until the middle of June, either June 15 or 22, and run until the first week in August.
Registration started in March but was put on hold until May 1 when it was determined games would be played this summer.
“We had to be pretty quick on the turnaround,” Corcimiglia said.
The Park Department’s website is www.pbparks.org and can be reached by phone at 573-686-8645.