The target date of June 8 for the return of youth sports remains just that — a target. Whether or not it actually happens remains a wait-and-see prospect.
The Beckley Babe Ruth League is moving on with plans to be prepared. That’s good news for more than just players in the 13- to-15-year-old age group.
The league also plans to have a 16-18-year-old division. That would give seniors who did not get to play this spring because of coronavirus fears a chance to either play one final time, or to get some live action in before heading to college.
League president Doug Leeber would love to see it happen. He is unsure of the last time Beckley Babe Ruth fielded a 16-18 division. He tried to get one started one last summer but there was not enough interest to go through with it.
With a yearning to play now stronger than ever, that trend might reverse.
“I want to give those high schoolers a chance to play if I can,” Leeber said. “American Legion is not playing. All those different leagues that start once (high school) got done, they don’t have a place to go to.”
The pool of players eligible to play for Beckley is large. There only two other chartered Babe Ruth leagues in West Virginia, and one of them — Elkins — has already canceled for the season. That opens up the boundaries considerably.
“There are no other chartered Babe Ruth leagues from the state line (West Virginia-Virginia border), all the way over to Greenbrier East, all the way to the left side, all the way up to Charleston,” Leeber said.
One piece of disappointing news: the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission has ruled that all school properties remain off-limits. The league was hoping to use Thomas F. Parham Field at Woodrow Wilson but will not be permitted, so the older players would still have to play at Harry Lewin Field.
“It might be a little bit of a Home Run Derby, but they’ll play,” Leeber said. “We’ll figure out something.”
Leeber is also open to ways of conducting the league for the older players.
“Do we really need to have a draft, or do we let them play on the team they would have been on in high school and let them slug it out till the end of the season?” he said. “I know the high school coaches can’t coach; they have to have other people. Just think if we got Beckley, Shady (Spring), Independence, Greenbrier East and they go at it and at the end of the season have a single-elimination tournament.”
A 16-18 division would have to finish play sooner than the other age groups because many would be heading off to college.
Signups for all ages are being done online at http://beckleybaberuthleague.website.sportssignup.com/. The fee is $60, plus a $5 convenience fee. Leeber said 18 players had registered for the 13-15 division and only four for 16-18 as of noon Friday, but it was only the third day the link had been available.
There is also a link for anyone interested in volunteering in any capacity.
Registration period ends June 8, when a two-day tryout period will begin. The league draft will take place after the last tryout on June 9. The practice period will run from June 10-21, and Opening Day is set for June 22.
The season will end Aug. 16.
Leeber stressed that any and all state and local guidelines in regard to social distancing and personal safety will be followed. The national Babe Ruth organization released a list of recommended guidelines, which includes:
l No handshakes, high fives, fist/elbow bumps, chest bumps, group celebrations, etc.
l No more than two players allowed in the dugout at any time, and they must be at least six feet apart.
l Players should limit sharing of equipment, including bats, gloves, helmets and water bottles.
l All participants should wear some type of face covering.
l Only one spectator per fan will be permitted to attend.
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