Despite being allowed to resume as of June 15, the Cape Region’s Little Leagues have all canceled their seasons.
“Even though Phase 2 in Delaware is allowing youth and recreational sports to reconvene, there are too many restrictions set forth from the CDC, Little League, and the state of Delaware that will take away from the integrity of the sport and not allow for an enjoyable season,” the Milton Little League board wrote in a Facebook post.
Lewes Little League President Jerry Windish and Rehoboth Beach Little League President Mike Simpler released a joint statement canceling their respective 2020 seasons.
“While we all looked at ways to move forward with the shortened season, we do not feel that we can safely adhere to several of the recommended guidelines,” they wrote. “Our priority is the health and safety of all of our players, parents, families, coaches, and league volunteers.”
While the local Little League fields will not be full of young baseball and softball players this summer, many area travel ball teams have moved forward with practices and even out-of-state tournaments.
Tournaments in Delaware are still prohibited in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening, which began June 15, due to the increased risk of players competing against multiple teams in one day. State officials said previously they expect tournaments to resume in Phase 3; however, the state has not yet announced when Phase 3 will begin.
For the sports that may resume in Phase 2, strict guidelines are in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“We have put a tremendous amount of thought into this,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health.
Face coverings are required for players, staff, volunteers, parents and spectators unless they pose a breathing hazard for participants. Rattay said she understands it may be unrealistic for players to wear masks while playing, so she recommends players put a mask on as they leave the field.
Teams must maintain a distance of six feet between players, coaches and spectators. Players are asked to bring their own drinks and towels, and to stagger their equipment at least six feet apart. Teams should also limit contact and avoid high fives, hugging and post-game handshakes. Spitting is strongly discouraged too.
The state worked with sports-specific national associations and organizations to develop the guidelines for each sport. Some are likely to change the way the game is played. In lacrosse, rather than a traditional face-off, teams are expected to flip a coin to see who will begin the game with possession. After a goal is scored, the defending team starts with possession, instead of going back to the center of the field for a face-off. In soccer, the state recommends headers and body checking be prohibited. Instead of a throw-in from the sideline, the state suggests kicking the ball back into play.
Sports venues are required to disinfect facilities at least once per day. Outdoor play is recommended, but if playing indoors, Rattay said, the facility manager should ensure adequate ventilation.
The state is still working on how to address higher-risk sports such as football, wrestling, indoor basketball, rugby and ice hockey.
• If it is not feasible for a home plate umpire to be 6 feet behind the catcher, the home plate umpire can stand behind pitcher’s mound (socially distanced from pitcher) in order to call balls and strikes
• Implement procedures to minimize a catcher’s exposure, such as: Moving batter’s box up 18 inches or have the catcher wear a face covering or shield over catcher’s mask
• Players may not take a lead from first base to prevent a first baseman from holding the runner on first
• The ball should be rotated out as frequently as possible or should be disinfected between innings
• Players should wash or sanitize hands between innings
• Base coaches should distance themselves from baserunners, players and umpires in field of play
• Remind players that spitting or chewing gum or sunflower seeds could increase the spread of COVID-19
• Consider disallowing headers, body checking and intentional direct contact with other players
• Time spent in defensive walls should be minimized
• No player other than the goalkeeper may be in the six-yard box. Fields without one may define a goalkeeper-only area.
• When the ball goes out of play, it should be kicked in
• No player or coach should pick up the ball, especially during a dead-ball period. Rather than a drop ball, players may use their feet/legs to move the ball
• The ball must be sanitized after each game
• Goalkeepers should wear gloves and disinfect them between games
• All players and officials should sanitize their hands before and after games
• Alternate face-off procedures
1.1 Coin toss: Before the start of play, the official will call one player from each team and conduct a coin toss. The winner of the coin toss will start the competition with possession of the ball at the center spot. The loser of the coin toss will have the first alternating possession
1.2 Positioning of players and starting play: The team that wins the coin toss will start with the ball in their offensive half of the field, near the center spot, with a free clear. All other players should be at least five yards from the player with the ball
1.3 Post-goal: The goalkeeper or official removes the ball from the goal, and the team that was scored on will start with possession in the crease or along the goal line extended. No restart will take place if any player is within five yards of the ball carrier. When the whistle is blown by the official, play will resume
1.4 Starting a new quarter/half: The team that loses the coin toss at the start of the game will have possession to start the second half. No player should be within five yards of the ball carrier
• Loose-ball play: When a loose ball is on the ground and cannot be quickly picked up because a group of players is tied up in a scrum, an official can end play early at their discretion (typically four or more seconds) and award the ball via alternate-possession rule
• Procedures for loose-ball technical fouls: When a loose-ball violation has been committed, the offended team can receive a quick play-on when an official visually and verbally signals “play-on.” If the offended team cannot quickly gain possession of the loose ball, the play-on must be ended immediately. In general, if it is unclear whether the offended team will quickly gain possession of the ball, play should be stopped, and the ball awarded to the team entitled to possession
• The draw: Coin toss to determine possession at start of game. Goalkeeper ball after a goal is scored, whistle start
• Ground balls: No more than two players contest a ground ball (current 10 and under rule)
• 8-meter positioning: Only one player per hash on eight-meter setup; existing rule that allows the defense to occupy adjacent hashes remains in force
• There should be no line play – no offensive or defensive line; QB takes snap himself
• Teams should be limited to six individuals per side
• Players should be instructed to only remove flags – no wrapping up ball carrier
• Fumbles result in an automatic turnover to opposing team
• Team huddles should be kept to 30 seconds or less
• When a penalty corner occurs, all attackers and defenders should socially distance before the ball is inserted. No castle or battery at the top of the circle. Once the ball is inserted, players may move freely
• The defensive team will not be permitted to congregate in a huddle for defensive strategy. Receiving signals from the sideline is acceptable. No supporting a defender running out with a foot or starting block. No more than the goalkeeper and one player in the goal.
• The attack team will not be permitted to congregate in a huddle for attacking strategy. Receiving signals from the sideline is acceptable.
• Players should not pick up the ball with their hands, but use their sticks to move the ball
• Outside games only are allowed at this time
• Teams on defense can only play zone defense. Three players must always stay out of the paint
• Teams on offense must always keep three players above the three-point line
• Team size should be limited to six people per side
• Players should stay within their designated zone on the court to ensure social distancing.