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Youth baseball could be back this summer, B.C. health officer says

More announcements about the resumption of summer sports expected at press conference today
little league
Players take part in opening day festivities for the 2019 season of Mount Seymour Little League. Youth baseball might be back this summer but in an altered form, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry Monday. file photo Paul McGrath, North Shore News

Youth baseball players, coaches and leagues around B.C. got a little shot of adrenaline Monday when provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry mentioned the sport specifically as something that could restart this summer.

In a presentation of COVID-19 modelling, Henry described a gradual loosening of restrictions over the coming months, including the potential for healthy citizens to slightly expand their social contacts. Following the presentation she was asked what that increase in social contact might look like, and Henry reiterated that some restrictions – such as the ban on gatherings of more than 50 people – will not be lifted anytime soon, but there will be some “wiggle room” as things open up while using the “building blocks and principles we’ll be putting in place” to maintain safety as social contacts slowly increase.

“We can do Little League baseball, for example, but it will look different this summer,” said Henry, adding that restrictions put in place this summer will not last forever. “We really are in uncharted territory right now, and that’s why it is so important for us to maintain these principles through this summer. It’s going to be a unique summer for all of us. … It’s going to be a challenge for all of us, but I think we can do it. We’ve shown in B.C. that we know how to manage this outbreak, that we can take the measures we need. Now is our time to start thinking about how we are going to have this unique summer together.”

Little League Canada recently announced that all of their regional tournaments have been cancelled for 2020. That followed the announcement that all Little League World Series tournaments had been cancelled for 2020. Little League Canada, however, did not rule out the possibility of playing baseball on a smaller scale this summer.

“Little League Canada is not cancelling our baseball, softball, and challenger seasons,” the organization stated in a release April 30. “Individual leagues with support and guidance from the Government of Canada, respective provincial governments, municipalities, districts administrators, and divisional representatives will decide the course of their own seasons for 2020.”

The BC Amateur Baseball Association put out a similar message in late April, noting that national, regional and provincial championships had been cancelled, but they were leaving the door open for smaller-scale play this summer.

“While we are not able to give any particulars about possible return dates or even what baseball might need to look like in order to return to play, please let it be known that we are working hard behind the scenes trying to bring baseball back and are working with all relevant partners and agencies on scenarios and adaptations that can be considered at such time as we receive a green light to return to play,” the association stated in a message to member organizations on April 23.

The president of Lynn Valley Little League, one of four Little Leagues on the North Shore, said his organization was encouraged by Dr. Henry’s pronouncement on Monday.

“We are prepared to start the season as soon as the authorities deem it safe to do so,” Ernest Florendo told the North Shore News. “We sent out a survey to our members asking them if they would be in favour of playing if the season were to start in July through the end of August, possibly September. Just over 90 per cent of the families in the Minors and Majors divisions said they would play.”

In a previous media session held on April 21, Henry opened the door to the possibility of youth sports leagues resuming play in the coming months, with the caveat that restrictions will need to be put in place to reduce the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus. She did not give a specific timeline for when sports teams would be able to hit the field again but she did say that getting people – young people in particular – back outside and taking part in physical activity was an important concern as the province begins loosening some restrictions in the coming months.

Last week Henry also noted the public is at little risk of contracting the coronavirus while outside, calling that possibility both “negligible” and “infinitesimally small.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan is scheduled to join Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix for a press conference today at 3 p.m. in which they are expected to release details of a plan which will be aimed at relaxing restrictions to safely increase social and economic contacts for a gradual reopening of services. The resumption of summer sports is one of the topics they are expected to address.