The words “play ball” that so many children in Amherst County live by each spring and early summer have not been uttered on the county’s ball fields this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The lack of baseball and softball this time of year is unprecedented for generations who played and coached in the Dixie Youth culture Amherst has cultivated for decades.
“It’s never happened since 1959 when it all started,” Madison Heights Youth Baseball Association President Ronnie Adams said.
With the hopes for summer play fast fading without some sort of urgent action by early June, according to Adams, an option for fall Dixie Youth baseball and softball appears the most likely scenario if action resumes this year.
“Being optimistic, summer ball does not look very promising just because the governor hasn’t even started Phase 2 [of reopening Virginia],” Adams said in a May 28 phone interview. “I still don’t know how we can pull it off. Fall ball is our Option 3.”
Mary Kathryn Allen, president of Dixie Youth’s organization in Nelson County, said the decision to hold a summer league would depend on the implementation of Phase 2, among other unknowns.
At this point in time, she said, “There’s no indications that we would not be able to play baseball in the fall.”
Dixie Youth in Amherst and Nelson counties kicks off in April. Starting in May was the best-case scenario and the second option, a six-week regular season kicking off June 22, is likely not going to happen without some sort of drastic change prior to June 5, Adams said.
National and state Dixie Youth organizations already have canceled All-Star play, so a regular season could be held at any point when given the go-ahead, he said.
The constant changes and developments in trying to plan have been difficult, he said.
“It’s been quite a challenging spring,” Adams said.
Fall baseball is held annually starting the week after Labor Day and is a five-week season, according to Adams. Should play not begin until then, he said, the fall season likely would be extended to eight weeks.
“We would like to start in early August and play to early October,” he said.
He said all local Dixie Youth leagues, including Amherst and Nelson County, are in wait-and-see mode to see how the pandemic affects planning.
“I know that this has been something that all the parents and the community has been patiently waiting for and we’re just asking them to be a little more patient,” Allen said.
On a “frequently asked questions” post on the Madison Heights Youth Baseball Association’s website, Adams wrote the association’s board of directors is working hard for the program in uncertain times.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic we have given every effort possible to make sure that should the opportunity present itself we will be ready with a plan in place for the players to take the field,” Adams wrote in the post. “We also work very tirelessly to make sure the facilities are maintained financially along with everything it takes to upkeep the complex. This on top of the economic struggle it has been to make the proper decision so the organization will survive has been a full-time job.”
The potential for baseball this year while keeping players safe is a big boost in morale for local youth that have been affected by social distancing, he said.
“It would be so important to the kids,” he said of having ball in 2020. “They’re just held hostage to their own home.”
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.