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Youth Sports Awaits The Next Phase Towards Return

Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, then Phase 4. That Phase 3 cycle is important for youth sports in the tri-state area and clearance to possibly getting back on the playing field for thousands of youngsters. These are the guidelines of New York state and medical protocols in this new world of dealing with COVID-19.

Richard Mancuso The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

Months away from the official start of another academic year and the scholastic sports calendar is up in the air with uncertainty. Officials from the Public Schools Athletic League, (PSAL) and Catholic HIgh Schools Athletic Association (CHSAA), are waiting on the sidelines.

Richard Mancuso The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

They, along with the scholastic athletes, are awaiting a green light. Similar to the professional sports, set to possibly resume in late July, medical protocols and getting these kids back on the field are playing with caution.

The guidelines that pertain to youth sports are no different with distancing, sanitizing, and all the procedures to prevent a further spread of the Coronavirus.

Phase 3, that has commenced on Long Island. Little Leagues and youth leagues are on the field and taking precaution. The game is different with those medical protocols.  PSAL and CHSAA football players have been utilizing virtual training and some have been holding informal workouts at city parks.

In the Bronx, home of more than seven organized Little league teams, officials of organizations are anticipating that date of Phase 3. That is a day that has been anticipated and will permit the resumption of operations.

Christina and Rene Aponte, President and VP of the Castle Hill Little League, are itching to resume operations for their kids and parents. The Coronavirus pandemic caused the league to shut down operations for a league that has had a successful run with youth since 1956. 

“We’re In a process of creating a COVID plan with Little League International,” Rene said.     

A tentative date of resumption is July 7th, but the problem could be no further spread of COVID-19.  New York City, last to open with different criteria for youth sports, as several counties and other cities have started tournaments.  

“We are in limbo,” Rene said. “We have a majority of kids and parents that want to play. We’re following the guidelines.”

The recommendations from Little League International and health organizations are implementing a COVID starting plan and safety procedures for the kids. Castle Hill, also maintains their spacious facility with registration for boys and girls starting at pee-wee to the age of 18.

They were set to go in March. It hit hard. No annual parade in the community to initiate a new season. No schedule of games. The equipment was put away. Kids and parents went home. 

The gates were locked at one of the better playing fields in the Bronx and New York City. 

As Rene said, “It hit us to the point, we were all set to go. Like a bucket of coal thrown on you.”

NYC Parks Department officials,  with directives,  cancelled all permits to use the field and others around the borough. Yet, as this pandemic continues there is a continued scene of pickup softball games and baseball being played on fields in city parks. 

There are many obstacles before a potential resumption, perhaps not as complicated as Major League Baseball, but a challenge. The field requires constant maintenance and the Aponte family has been doing their part. 

And sponsors, a major part of a Little League organization, need to be secured and return to the fold.  Political support has always been there, but a pandemic can change a reality of the situation when it comes to assisting with funding. 

But it is basically the volunteers who have been there and using proper safety protocols with sanitizing and distancing. 

“Volunteers, kids,  coaches maintaining the field,” Rene said. “landscaping. we do it ourselves. We grab a rake or hose. We have a very good strong core of volunteers.”

In the end, it is that safety of the kids. Castle Hill Little League officials are meeting every Tuesday evening and devising a proper plan when they get the go-ahead for Phase 3.

That is the hope so kids can play the game they love. All the other Little League organizations that comprise District 22 are also following guidelines. The district received a mandate to shut down all operations when the pandemic hit from Little League International. 

“Keep in mind the priority, as the safety of the kids only thinking about the kids and the parents,” Rene says. “Playing  baseball wasn’t a priority.  This was an obstacle,  but the health of our kids and families has always been a priority.”

When they resume there will be social distancing, constant sanitizing of equipment, a limited number of parents and friends per child. 

Rene said,  “Baseball will always be around.” And soon, perhaps in two weeks, Castle Hill Little League and others will play the game they love again.

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