Batter Up! A Youth Team Holds Tryouts During the COVID Crisis
All photos and video by Mark McKenna
As summer approaches in the time of the COVID crisis, coaches and athletes look for new ways to practice the sports they love. On Wednesday, about 50 hopeful youths showed up throughout a series of tryouts spaced in intervals at Redwood Fields in Cutten. They hope to be chosen for the Humboldt Eagles baseball team–the first local youth team to begin activities after the spread of the pandemic forced sports to go on hiatus.
As each session progressed, the youth spread out to work in groups of six. As they practiced, the crisp smack of the bat, the thud of a mitt closing over a fast ball mixed with the muffled voices of coaches shouting through cloth echoed both traditional tryouts and highlighted the new reality where young and old were required to wear masks when they arrive and when they are close to each other.
Normally, youth trying out for baseball teams is as American and uncontroversial as apple pie but, in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, restarting the sport is cause for debate. On the one hand, the NCAA has voted to approve allowing some sports to begin on college campuses June 1. On the other, Dr. Anthony Fauci–director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), advisor to the Trump administration, and passionate Washington Nationals fan–has urged caution and using a strategy of testing and isolating athletes to make sure the novel coronavirus does not spread among teams and to families.
Fauci noted though, ““I hope that there’s some form of baseball this summer, even if it’s just for TV…I feel that strongly, one, because I’m an avid baseball fan but also because it’s for the country’s mental health to have the great American pastime be seen.”
However, Fauci is mostly addressing professional teams, not student athletes with families that they return home to. And youth leagues unlike professional teams do not have the money for extensive testing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released some guidelines last week. The guidelines caution, “The more people a child or coach interacts with, the closer the physical interaction, the more sharing of equipment there is by multiple players, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.”
On April 19, Humboldt County Sheriff Billy Honsal said, “[W]e will follow up with [sports teams who restart] and make sure that they are following the guidelines as outlined by California Department of Public health and our local health officer.”
Neither of the other two local American Legion teams are holding tryouts at this time. Reportedly they will reevaluate in early June.