For many parents and kids in Coronado, the question of when local sports will return has swirled in their heads for months now. But with both the state of California and the county of San Diego’s improving COVID-19 infection rates and the improved distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, the resumption of local sports may be closer than we think. So close actually that some youth leagues like Coronado Little League decided to open registration. Like many youth sports programs, Coronado Little League has been shut down since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Still, league President Doug Barker is optimistic that the 2021 Coronado Little League season will happen.
“We were so hopeful that we would be able to return to the field in 2020, and at the time, we built up and encouraged people to maintain optimism, but we were just never able to get onto the field,” said Barker. And because of that, Barker and Coronado Little League had held off on registration for 2021. According to Barker, the league needed signs that things were heading in the right direction. “We felt that with the improved case rates and the increased distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine that there is a reasonable chance that we will return to the field and play games and have a season,” and so registration is now open.
Barker has insisted, going back as far as November, that the league must have all its ducks in a row so that when given the green light, he and his admin board will be ready to roll. According to Barker, Coronado Little League is making registration as easy as possible this season to help encourage sign-ups.
“Normally for registration, we have to have parents show up and present birth certificates and proof of residency, but thanks to an amendment for Little League International in Williamsport, all registration this year can be done online. So, it’s as simple as it could be.” On top of the easy accesses for registration, CLL will only require $25 for the registration fee. Barker shared, “If the community truly wants to help the league out, it can do so by registering immediately, as it helps us as a league work out many logistical questions such as team sizes.” As it stands right now, CLL and Barker don’t anticipate that players would be able to take the field until at least the start of March when the league will have a better sense of how many players they have for the season.
The league schedule remains fluid, but if everything continues to improve as the league hopes, then assessments would be either the last week of February or the first week of March. Following the teams’ selection after the assessments, teams would have a few weeks to practice before the projected first week of games, in the first week of April. Barker and the league have created what he calls a “three pronged approach” — three different options to account for if the league experiences a delay. If the season does experience a delay, Barker and CLL have a plan in place.
“If we have to delay or modify our season due to state or county health regulations, we will break up players into what we will call cohorts that will consist of 12 or fewer players per group to comply with health regulations and day camp rule. We will then select managers and have them move from cohort to cohort to see each player. These assessments and the kids will receive the benefit of receiving instruction from a variety of different coaches,” said Barker. He also pointed out that under these scenarios, the cohorts will have no bearing or relationship to the eventual teams, as the proceeding player draft will be where each player is assigned to a team.
Barker and CLL have also formulated a plan for a situation where no games can be played. “If we come to a place where the state and county deem [games] unsafe to play, then we would use the cohort system for the entire season/year and practice, but not play games. We would not ask for any money further beyond the 25 dollar registration, and would not come back and ask for more money in this situation.”
Emphasizing CLL’s commitment to keeping players safe for the potential 2021 season, Barker points out, “We will be observing the COVID-19 protocols extremely closely. We will have people assigned to monitor practices and games to ensure that all protocols and procedures are being upheld and obeyed. We’re not just doing it because we have to; we’re taking these measures to ensure that we keep everyone as safe as possible.”
While optimistic that they will have a full season, they acknowledge there will still be some on-the-field and facility issues that will most likely be left up to state and county health officials; such as the sharing of equipment, fans/parents being allowed to attend games, and whether or not players will be required to wears masks during the match/while on the field of play.
For Barker and Coronado Little League, the next few weeks will be key in deciding what their next step will be. But if the COVID numbers continue to improve, Coronado Little League could be back to play in the very near future.