Baseball season on the way

STRAIT AREA: After the provincial government allowed athletic fields to open and groups no larger than 10 on those facilities, work started locally to start the baseball season.

At the moment, minor baseball teams and groups are conducting fundraising and preparing for registration, this as workers and volunteers get playing fields ready for practice, and eventually, competition.

Meanwhile, officials with the Richmond Amateur Baseball Association are planning to meet soon to discuss the upcoming season.

The moves come after provincial officials accepted proposals from Sport Nova Scotia to restart the province as new cases of COVID-19 continue to decrease.

Baseball Nova Scotia (BNS) said after contacting representatives from every club across the province, the response was universal that every attempt will be made to make baseball safe this summer.

As part of its Return to Play (RTP) plan to mitigate potential risks, BNS is asking members (athlete, coach, official, or other volunteer) to stay home if they have any symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone who has or who had the virus in the previous 14 days. Proof of testing will be required to return to play.

They are also requesting members wear a mask if in close contact with others (a surgical procedure or cloth mask are sufficient, but an N-95 mask is not required) but masks are not mandated at this time.

BNS is also asking that members avoid large groups where social distancing is not feasible.

Indoor training is permissible but dugouts are off limits to athletes (coaches/organizers can utilize them, assuming physical distancing is possible).

Field bookings should be done with 15 minute grace times between to allow for limited interaction between groups using the field.

There is to be no sharing of water bottles and no sharing of food of any kind. They are asking there to be no spitting, no chewing gum, and no sunflower seeds.

All participants are asked to shower at their first opportunity after each event.

Associations will work with facility owners to adopt the BNS Return to Play plan. Associations will be also be beholden to any additional health precautions put in place by facility owners.

Coaches should sanitize any high touch surface areas prior to vacating the facility (as dugouts are not being used, there should be minimal high touch areas).

There is to be no sharing of personal helmets, gloves, hats, or training devices and no sharing of bats (unless cleaned with a certified disinfectant after every use). They ask there be no sharing of catcher’s gear and catcher’s gear can only be used if it is association gear used by one person per day, and disinfected after each session.

There is no sharing of any other equipment unless disinfected between personal use. All participants are required to disinfect their equipment after each event. All uniforms or clothing are expected to be washed after each event.

Balls should be sanitized after use or not used for four days to reduce likelihood of transmission.

Two different training groups should not be using the same baseballs (unless sanitized between use).

Athletes should be provided with the opportunity to sanitize their hands between drills and activities.

Ride sharing is discouraged whenever possible. Spectators are limited to one family member, or no more than one acquaintance of the athlete. All spectators will be expected to maintain physical distancing.

All first aid kits have to be updated to include PPE (as deemed appropriate by public health) should physical contact may be necessary due to injury.

There will be one designated person to handle injury situations to avoid physical contact between the injured person and multiple people.

Teams should have a communal hand sanitizer available, but athletes will be encouraged to bring a personal bottle for use.

To maintain physical distancing, 10 people are permitted on the field of play but that must include a minimum of two coaches and coaches must maintain physical distancing while working with athletes.

Associations should have a participant registry or the ability to trace names, dates, time, and contact info for training activities. Should a COVID-19 case be reported, this will assist in tracing.

Associations must report potential cases of COVID-19 to Baseball Nova Scotia immediately. Further activities must be suspended until confirmation of a negative test is provided.

All participants will be required to sign a Release, Waiver of Liability, and Indemnity acknowledging the inherent risk in participation, and the release of liability towards BNS and the association. BNS will provide the waiver. Associations must have the signed waiver prior to allowing any athlete on the field. BNS will be auditing associations to ensure they have collected the signed waiver.

The association should communicate all guidelines to its members. BNS does not collect contact information for every member, so the association should communicate the guidelines to its members or their guardians.

Dugouts can be used during competitions for coaches and no more than three athletes at a time. Personal gear is to remain outside of the dugout. Designated space inside or outside the field must be provided for participants and teams to safely physical distance from each other.

Games will see a strict one hour and 45 minute time limit. As field bookings are typically done in two hour slots, we want to ensure a 15 minutes grace period as one group enters the facility and one leaves.

Gates will remain open during competition (unless the gate opens into the field of play).

Coach’s boxes need to be adjusted to ensure physical distancing from players and officials.

Teams can have practices as a group but there is to be no sharing the field with other teams.

Full team drills are permitted, assuming core public health physical distancing guidelines are met.

Catchers have been eliminated at the younger levels, as they typically use communal gear. Rather than put the stress on associations to make extensive investment in new equipment, BNS eliminated the position for U11 recreation level and below, but catchers are allowed in A, AA and AAA divisions.

For the 11U, 15U, 18U, 21U, intermediate, and senior levels, there will be no home plate umpire and balls and strikes have to be called from an official at least 10 feet behind the pitcher.

There will be no pregame home plate meeting. The home team will be responsible for communicating ground rules prior to the game or ensuring they are posted. Payments can be made to officials prior to the game. Line ups will be posted in an area that officials have easy access to, if necessary

There are to be no interactions with officials unless necessary (injury, calling time to make a lineup change, etc.) and those interactions must be done with two meters physical distancing.

Mound visits are permitted between the coach, pitcher, and catcher but two meters physical distancing must be adhered to between all three individuals. No team will be permitted to huddles pre, post, or during competition. Addressing the entire team must be done with two meters spacing between everyone.

Post-game handshakes are not permitted.

Balls are to be disinfected after each half inning or a when a ball is returned from being put out of play. Each team is responsible for their own baseballs on defence.

A “safety line” will be drawn utilizing chalk or a marker parallel to home plate (an extension of the first base line). Athletes are to cross this line to score and will not touch home plate. All plays at the plate are force plays.

Should the ball be received by the fielder at the plate before the runner passes the safety line, the runner is out? Should the runner reach the safety line before the ball reaches the fielder at the plate, the runner is safe.

A “commitment line” will be drawn utilizing chalk or a marker at the half-way point between 3rd base and home plate. Should the runner pass this commitment line, they will not be permitted to return to their previous base. Should they stay behind the commitment line, they can return to the previous base.

No stealing is permitted. Players may take a secondary lead after the pitch reaches the plate at 11U. Players may take a secondary lead after the pitcher commits to home plate in 13U and above.

For all levels, travel will be restricted during this time to no overnight trips and no more than 50 kilometre outside of the region, but there will be exceptions for athletes training on BNS Provincial teams.

In the second phase of re-opening, teams will be permitted to travel outside of their regions for competition (within Nova Scotia) and provincial championships can be held, with restrictions, including no more than six teams per single site event; no skills competitions, ceremonies, or additional events associated with the tournament; and recreational divisions are permitted to hold play offs or weekend events.

As in the case with the second phase, the third and fourth phases will depend on the number of new cases in Nova Scotia.