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When will they play ball?

HYBA making safety plans in the event little league, Babe Ruth baseball eventually returns to the diamond


Last updated 4/29/2020 at 9:20am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

A view from the pitcher's mound at empty Elks Park recently. Normally, Elks would be coming to life right now with youth baseball, but COVID-19 has put a halt to, at least, the beginning of the youth baseball season.

The current state of sports today is one that has been relatively stagnant. The spring season for high school and college sports has been officially canceled due to the COVID-19 concern. On top of that, summer sports are in jeopardy.

These sports include the Havre Youth Baseball Association, which as of right now, has not gotten the green light to start the season as planned. The major and minor leagues that make up HYBA are a big part of the youth sports here in Havre and the surrounding communities have been a staple for young kids to get into the sport of baseball.

Back in March, the HYBA board released a statement regarding the COVID-19 situation.

"The Havre Youth Baseball Association (HYBA) is committed to the health and wellness of the children," the statement said. "Due to the COVID-19 virus, we are discussing and taking necessary precautions, which currently includes the temporary shutdown of the dugout and postponing any tryouts, practices, and games until further notice. HYBA will proceed with administrative duties with the intention of having a 2020 baseball season and we will continue to accept registration forms until March 31, waiving all late fees. Should the risk of exposure continue longer than expected, HYBA will adjust our start times for the 2020 baseball season and notify you as soon as possible."

As of April 24, the HYBA board has still been continuing to keep watch of the present situation and has been working on plans to have the 2020 baseball season. It has only been a few days since that announcement, but HYBA board member Brian Jenkins gave some more details on what the league is hoping for.

"In accordance with the roll out of Gov. Bullock's relaunch plan, Phase I is youth activities, but it in groups of 10 or less," Jenkins said. "It doesn't allow us at this time to launch our league play with that format. What we're doing is we're going to utilize this opportunity with the Northstars for a new practice regimen, rules and procedures in place involving disinfectants. To evaluate this process to see how well it works for the leagues is that Phase II will come prior to starting the leagues, which allows 50 or less, which would enable for league play to happen."

The Northstars have been constructing a plan for all the leagues, both high school, minor, majors and younger teams. Jenkins and HYBA will be contributing to this plan, with hopes that the younger leagues can get going alongside the legion program. The plan would be presented to the local health board, who decides if the plan is deemed safe enough to go forward with.

There are a lot of other opportunities for the youth leagues to stay within the rules of social distancing and other guidelines Bullock put into place. Jenkins mentions that Phase II of Gov. Bullock's re-opening procedure allows for the best opportunity to start games, with some special features of the youth fields that can help the leagues play with some semblance of an audience.

"Phase II will at least enable us the opportunity to play baseball," Jenkins said. "It may not be how anybody likes and how everybody wants, but the kids really playing baseball, I guess that's what matters. We may just have teams, coaches, officials scorekeepers and essential staff only allowed at the field. There are fields with parking spaces that fit within the rules that would still allow parents the opportunity to watch their kids, as long as they're in a vehicle or something according to social distancing."

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

A Lions Field dugout sits empty in Havre recently. While American Legion baseball in Havre could be returning to practice at least, the rest of the Havre Youth Baseball Association leagues have not reached that point yet.

But at the end of the day, Jenkins knows that things have to move in baby steps, starting with practices. On top of that, Jenkins talked about how, even though it feels like it, not much of the season has been lost yet.

"Priority number one is practice," Jenkins said. "It takes practice to get ready for a season. Hopefully in the coming weeks we find out what that season looks like. Not a lot has been lost so far. Normally the leagues would be starting practice about this time. Then, we would begin playing games by the first, sometimes second week of May. But we typically end our seasons fairly early in the summer, usually by mid-June, so it's just going to look a little different. We may start early June in an ideal situation. Best case scenario is that we start our league's first practice and getting into games in June. Might go into July, but that's the advantage we have. We have time on our side."

For now, there is no youth baseball on the field. The Majors, Minors and Babe Ruth leagues will wait their turn, but with safety plans forming, the HYBA is hoping that their day is coming soon.


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