Batter up! County Kids get back to the fields
On Monday the first official "Play Ball" will be said and that's music to the ears of many local high school student-athletes and coaches who had their 2020 season wiped out due to the pandemic.
Most of the area playing fields have been cleared of snow (kind of) and have been letting mother nature do her thing in preparation for a spring full of baseball and softball. The spring sports season was the only season in the 2019-20 academic year that was canceled.
Maine high school athletes were able to return to their sports last fall and were able to continue playing the winter season. The heal points system was not used for either season and schools played regionally. Returning to the diamond will come with some accommodations for the players, but the most noticeable changes will be with the umpires.
What changes for the players?
The players will be required to maintain proper distancing and sanitizing when possible and many dugouts will be "extended" so that means you will see many teams benches outside of the typical dugout. The pitchers will not be allowed to go to their mouth. Instead, they will be allowed to have a damp cloth in their back pocket and any time they use the cloth they must wipe their hands before touch the ball.
Hey ump you can't see that!
Fans are allowed to attend! Be sure you check with your school first to make sure of the attendance policies and procedures. Those who are able to attend will probably be looking for the umpires in their typical positions, but will be in for a little surprise. In softball the home plate umpire will be standing 6 feet behind the catcher, but in baseball the home plate umpire will be standing behind the pitcher's mound.
Other adjustments to this spring include no chanting or singing from the benches. You won't hear the players encouraging their teammates with a “Throw him a chair, sit him down". If you're like me you will want to grab a couple of bags of sunflower seeds before the game, but don't do that this year. There will not be any spitting, seed chewing, or anything similar on the field this year.
Even though there has been some of the white stuff falling this week, next week we will get to hear the pop of the ball hitting a catcher's mitt, and the ping of a ball flying off the bats of local kids. Let’s play some ball!