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2020 youth baseball suffers during global pandemic: Ball players strike out as COVID-19 cancels baseball season

HARLEM VALLEY — For many young athletes growing up in the area, the arrival of spring means the beginning of baseball season, a time for them to rush out onto the field with a bat in hand and their eye on the ball. Yet as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, baseball season in the Harlem Valley has been canceled to prevent the risk of spreading any illnesses, leaving young athletes disappointed. Though they were also saddened by the decision to cancel the season, local coaches and recreation personnel knew it needed to be done and are now anticipating starting the program fresh next spring.

Amiee Duncan, treasurer of the Millerton Youth Baseball League, admitted, “I’m sad — I anticipated that this would be over soon, but this is our reality.”

Keeping in contact with Amenia Recreation Director Kelly Milano and Lisa McAuliffe, the recreation director for Salisbury, Conn., Duncan said she’s keeping an open ear to catch any news related to the Mid-County Baseball League’s plans for the 2020 season. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, she said she expected the Millerton Youth Baseball League to get bigger and better this year, especially since Rob Cooper from Associated Lightning Rod joined the league as its new president. 

When school districts in New York state were officially shut down for the remainder of the academic year on Friday, May 1, Duncan said that was their first indication that baseball season wasn’t going to happen this year. Milano later alerted her to the news of schools closing across Connecticut as well as news of the Dover Little League team’s decision to cancel its season. 

As the Millerton Youth Baseball League packs up its equipment and stores it away until next spring, Duncan said registration fees will be refunded to families. 

As far as the future of baseball in Millerton goes, she said, “I think we just have to call it for this year and start fresh in 2021.”

“It sucks just because the kids aren’t going to be able to play ball,” Milano added when asked about the turn of events. 

Since recreational programs in New York state have been categorized under Phase Four of the reopening the state’s economy, Milano explained that by the time recreational programs are allowed to reopen, it’ll be time for soccer season, leaving baseball players to compete against soccer players for time on the field.

“Even if we were to begin opening up at this moment, we wouldn’t be able to start until the end of June, beginning of July,” she said. “We made the decision just to cancel the season, so we’re going to work on refunds.”

Though baseball season is a no-go this year, Milano remains hopeful about the future. Depending on how fast the state reopens, she said she hopes to have a day or two where kids will be able to get together and play baseball for fun — sans leagues.

Meanwhile, Pine Plains Recreation Director Michael Cooper reported that all Pine Plains programs and facilities will remain closed “until our region of the state can reopen safely.” When the time comes, he said the Pine Plains Recreation Department will reopen following the guidelines set forth by New York state and Dutchess County.

“If we are able to reopen facilities and run programs safely, we will look at running a summer baseball program,” Cooper said. “However, there are many variables that play into that decision and our current priority is the safety of our recreation patrons and community.”

In the meantime, he said members of the town’s Recreation Department and Recreation Committee are planning and hoping for the best.

Having anticipated another season on the ball fields in the town of Washington, the Taconic Little League team was disappointed to hear about the season’s cancellation, though this hasn’t stopped Taconic Little League President Mike Denatale from staying positive.

“We haven’t given up on this season just yet,” he said. “We’ve obviously put an end to our spring season but we still haven’t actually given up complete hope.”

That being said, Denatale said the league is hoping to either do something over the summer or start the fall baseball season a little earlier than usual. Dubbed “fall ball” by Denatale, the league’s fall baseball season typically begins some time in the middle of August and runs to mid-October. Games are officially run from the first weekend after Labor Day until October. Though this is usually a weekend-only league, Denatale said there may be a way to squeeze in some extra games during the week “so we can give the kids something that resembles a normal season.”

For the time being, Denatale said the league has been keeping everyone up-to-date and is working to make sure it has the funds available to give refunds to families. He explained that all of the cancellations came before the league had to outlay any funds for items such as baseball equipment. 

If the league is unable to start by the end of May, Denatale said he’ll have to start thinking about canceling the season and issuing either refunds or credits to families. Yet he noted that many of the families involved with the league have remained hopeful.

“Most of our families have been trying to hold out hope that something will happen,” Denatale said.

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