Special to Elmore Autauga News
The world of sports hit a wall when the coronavirus reared its ugly head. When it comes to sports the words suspended or delayed have been cast about incessantly. From Major League Baseball all the way down the line, everyone is wondering when their respective seasons will start.
There is a deep at the most important level – youth baseball and softball.
The City of Millbrook ball parks would normally be a cyclone of vigorous activity in April and May. But that’s not the case as Dixie Youth Baseball and USSSA Softball are in a holding pattern, and the parks are dormant without activity.
“It’s been a big concern for us. We are waiting to see what we can and can’t do,” Millbrook Parks and Recreation Director Scott Davis said. “Hopefully we will know more when the Governor makes her next announcement.”
The youth baseball season started slowing down before the first pitch. The city noticed that registrations were off in January and February – before the coronavirus shutdown. “We noticed a slowdown from the very beginning. We feel sure the threat of the virus motivated many people to wait. The closer we got to the shutdown the more apparent it became,” Davis remarked.
Millbrook registered more than 550 kids in the baseball/softball programs last year. That number was only 425 this year. As usual, registration started in January.
One of the difficulties for the city is uniforms. The city ordered uniforms that cannot be used in 2020 as of now. The city has been refunding money to families that decided not to participate due to the virus. “We started giving refunds the first part of April. Now we have a large quantity of uniforms with no games scheduled. It is a difficult situation,” Davis said. As of May 14 the city has refunded fees to 143 families.
Davis said that the uniforms will be held until next year and he believes a great many can be used in 2021. “That’s our only real option. It’s not good to take a loss on the uniforms but I think we will spend much less on uniforms next year,” Davis explained.
The city has ten fields, four for softball and six for baseball. Most fields can be used for either sport. Even though the future of the 2020 season is uncertain the Parks and Recreation Department is keeping the fields in top condition. “We can play on our fields today. We are as ready as the kids and want them to have a good place to play,” Davis said.
Looking past uniforms and neatly groomed ball fields, Millbrook is in the same situation other cities are in. The future of summer youth sports remains up in the air. It all comes down to the State of Alabama and protocols issued should youth sports be allowed to proceed. “Getting to play is one thing. How we play is another. We just have to wait and see what the Governor’s orders are,” Davis said. “Governor Ivey may say we can play but the protocols could make it impossible. I know we can’t afford to build new dugouts for all of our fields if kids are required to keep six feet apart. What would we do about parents being close to one another?”
So, the game today is simply to wait. No season has been completely canceled. There is still a chance a shortened season will take place.
“All we can do is re-evaluate our situation once the orders are lifted. We can only wait and see,” Davis said.