A phased opening is among the 100-plus recommendations and items of consideration put forth by the COVID-19 Response Committee for baseball in hopes of a return to play of the sport in the country.
Committee member Shane Albury said their number one concern remains the health and safety of the players, coaches, league officials and all involved with regular baseball activity in the country. Like local baseball enthusiasts, they would love to see the game return to regular action but not before all of the safety standards would have been met and all of the respective protocols in place.
An extensive 10-page document detailing a safe and secured return to baseball was presented to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. Albury said they expect an answer within the next two weeks. Various leagues such as the Junior Baseball League of Nassau (JBLN) and the Freedom Farm Baseball League (FFBL) are eagerly anticipating a return to their regular baseball activities. The Bahamas Baseball Association (BBA), which governs all baseball activity in the country, is waiting patiently for a response from government and health officials and will relay the message to the various leagues.
“The BBA would love to have baseball back but everything would have to be in accordance with the government orders in place and in conjunction with the various leagues,” said Albury, who also serves as an executive member of the BBA. “Once we receive a response from the proper authorities and pass on the information, it is going to be up to the leagues whether or not to continue this season or start preparing for next year. The leagues will have to determine for themselves how they will set up their schedules in terms of actual play.”
With the phased opening recommendation, Albury said it would be done in such a way that caters to the older players first. The first phase will encompass players 13 and older (junior, senior and girls softball); the second phase will feature the nine to 12 year olds (minor and major); and the final phase will cater to the younger kids, eight and under (tee ball and coach pitch).
“The older kids could understand a bit better the things they need to do, so starting them is an option that we are considering. Then we have the nine to 12 year olds, minor and major, and then phase three would be the younger ones – eight and under,” said Albury. “We understand that the young ones are used to putting their hands all over the place and in their mouths and just being playful with each other. We want to discourage that as much as possible at this stage of recovery. We’ll certainly have to play that phase of opening by air.”
Having studied guidelines and recommendations from international global bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), Albury said their document is extensive, outlining prevention and safety methods and measures, and addresses all aspects of play on the field – pregame, during the game and postgame. Included are social distancing measures; cleaning and sanitizing protocols as it relates to equipment, stands and premises; and safety training for coaches, players, officials, volunteers, parents and concession stand workers.
He said they are willing to provide the document to other sporting federations and leagues as well.
“We think that this document touches every aspect of the field and every aspect of baseball,” said Albury. “As we progress, we would suggest small group training at first, and then full team practices before engaging in play. We understand that there has been some Zoom training going on and we thoroughly support that. We just want a safe and secure return to baseball and we are moving in that direction.”
Baseball in the country has been stagnant since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Local seasons have ceased, the BBA nationals were canceled and all travel ball was put off. Albury said that one of the items on the agenda that they are looking at is a fall baseball classic, prior to the start of the new season.
As far as the various leagues are concerned, they have a number of options in front of them whenever the sport is allowed to resume to regular activity. One such option is for players to remain on the same teams in the new season given the likelihood that it will be a while before league and national teams are allowed to travel. Also, they could choose whether or not to finish off this season or move straight into a new season.
It is expected to be determined in the coming weeks.