Organized youth sports resume play in Baton Rouge

Social distancing measures force different fan experience

Organized youth sports resume play in Baton Rouge
(Source: Josh Auzenne/WAFB-TV)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Organized youth sports resume in earnest Memorial Day weekend, as nearly 100 teams travel to Baton Rouge to play in the Governor’s Games baseball tournament.

The tournament, one of the nation’s largest state-sponsored baseball events, takes place over three days at five different complexes, each with multiple fields. United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) officials will monitor the games to ensure fans are practicing social distancing.

Spectators who are sitting too close together may be asked to leave. Dugouts will be separated and umpires will set up six feet behind home plate and the pitcher’s mound.

“We had to make some really tough decisions on how to balance public health and physical activity, while just trying to get some type of normalcy in this state,” Rudy Macklin, the director of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, said. “This is the Sportsman’s Paradise, and in Louisiana, we know how to adjust.”

Host venues are taking extra precautions to ensure players and fans are safe. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued its guidance for athletic events earlier this week.

Macklin says baseball and cross country are the two sports easiest to manage with social distancing rules. Governor John Bel Edwards’ administration canceled a number of other state-sponsored tournaments involving other sports.

“We think we can manage baseball,” he said. “It’ll still be baseball when they say ‘batter up.’”

Jefferson Baptist Church will host 9 and 10-year-old kids on its baseball fields during the Governor’s Games. Facility managers there have installed movable chain-link fences to keep fans away from the dugouts and baselines. Instead, spectators will sit in the outfields.

Families will be allowed to sit together. Concessions and water fountains will not be available. If games are rained out, fans will be asked to sit in their cars or leave instead of congregating in shaded areas. Coaches will not exchange lineup cards.

“It’s a little different when you got your kid involved,” Coyt Nicholson, who coaches his sons’ youth teams, said. “When I look at this, I look at it as ‘What would I want somebody doing for my kid?’”

Nicholson’s Louisiana Lugnuts are not participating in the Governor’s Games, but will resume play the following weekend. He says his children have been “itching” to see their friends on the field again.

“You find new holes in the walls or a broken lamp here and there, that kind of stuff," Nicholson said, noting the time indoors has made his boys “rambunctious."

“For them to be able to come back out to this baseball field and see their friends, not only is it good for their physical well-being, but also their mental well-being," he added.

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