Citing the desire to ensure the safety of its participants, the West Liberty Ball Association has decided to have its own independent season this summer.
The decision comes after the state released an extensive list of protocols for certain sports to begin. Some communities have decided to cancel their seasons altogether.
West Liberty’s teams normally compete within the Logan County organization.
Currently, there are a handful of county associations that plan to stay together and participate this summer.
“It’s been a trying and stressful experience this year with all of the uncertainty,” said WLBA president Matt Hull. “We had lost about 15 to 20 percent of our registrants for the season. When we received the guidelines from the governor’s office we received a lot of feedback from our ball families. The WLBA took that stance that if we want to have a chance to play ball, then we need to follow the guidelines, with no exceptions.”
Hull said there was concern that not all participating teams in the county league would adhere to the state restrictions.
“One of the reoccurring concerns we received from multiple families was how they could be assured that these guidelines are being followed wherever we traveled,” said Hull. “The simple answer is we cannot. And we know we have no right to ask people outside of our organization to change their stances to cater to ours. Our board and many of our families know that our kids were already exposed to each other in early March when school was still in session. It made sense to us to keep our circle tighter to give peace of mind to some of our parents who are rightfully and genuinely concerned, but want their children to play ball.
“It certainly wasn’t an easy decision, but it is our board’s responsibility to do what we feel is in the best interest of our organization. Unlike many of the other county organizations, we have the luxury of being able to pull it off since we serve about 280 to 300 players. We have offered our support and help as a board to the county and will remain members of the Logan County Baseball Association once things return back to normal.”
The baseball and softball requirements issued by the governor’s office last Thursday include umpires and coaches wearing face coverings at all times, players wearing face coverings when not involved in the game and no contact (hand shakes, “high fives,” sharing of equipment or water bottles) among players and coaches.
Taking it a step further, WLBA also plans to add its own protocols. Players will not use the dugouts. Rather, they will be asked to sit in the bleachers or with their parents.
Spectators will not be allowed to sit in the bleachers. They will need to take their own chairs or blankets to sit on. Also, all spectators must remain six feet away from the fence.
There will also be hand wash stations at each field and a centralized toilet location that will be sanitized daily.
The WLBA plans to start practice on May 26 in accordance with the governor’s order and games will begin June 8 and continue through the end of July.
Hull said it was important to provide some sort of competition for the community’s young people.
“All across Logan County a lot of our youth hasn’t seen their peers in three months,” said Hull. “They’ve been unfairly deprived of a social life for circumstances outside of their control. We just want to give our West Liberty youth a chance to hang out, laugh and play the sport they love with their friends and classmates, and do so following the new guidelines and in the safest and healthiest way we possibly can. Having complete oversight over coaches, players and spectators allows us the best chance at assuring our parents of that.”