By Woodard, Dale on June 11, 2020.
Softball Valley is hopeful the first pitch of the slo-pitch season will arc by July.
The newly-named Lethbridge City Mixed League as well as Men’s League and Women’s League remains in the dugout due to the ongoing COVID pandemic.
However, Hank Stoffer, the facility manager of Softball Valley, remains hopeful they’ll be able to play ball next month.
“We’re like everybody else, we’re waiting to see what happens with things opening up,” said Stoffer. “We’re hoping they’re speeding up the phases and that we might be able to open up in July.
“As the sports open up, what we’re waiting for are all the different organizations we deal with -Softball Canada, National Softball Association and Slo-Pitch Nationals. They’re putting the protocols in place for the sport itself. Then of course we would have to get approved for the protocols we would put in place here at Softball Valley.”
Roughly 74 teams have signed up for the mixed league this season with the men’s and women’s league seeing a slight rise in numbers.
However, should the season fire up in July, some of those numbers may dip with some teams expressing a concern about returning to the diamonds.
“We are hearing a little bit of feedback that some of the players and some of the teams may not be comfortable with playing if it does come,” said Stoffer. “So I expect we may be down 20 per cent of the teams overall. But with a shortened schedule, I don’t know if that’s going to be the worst thing either because we can fit everything in.”
Stoffer said the number of games will be determined by the number of teams should the leagues get the green light in July.
“We haven’t really heard from a lot of the teams,” said Stoffer. “We’ve been sending out emails to update them. Most of them, I think, are pretty excited to get back to playing some ball. But I think everybody knows the situation and it’s out of our hands as well.”
Stoffer said Softball Canada, the NSA and the SPN’s involvement in a possible return to the diamond is very sports-specific, such as how players would avoid tags or any contact.
“The players themselves really aren’t that close during the game,” said Stoffer. “We’re fortunate here that we’ve opened the ends of our dugouts and we can actually spread people out quite far. So you’re not cramming 12 of 15 people into a dugout. Some things we’re looking at doing is we always run doubleheaders, but what we would do is have the same teams play each other twice so we’re not moving team dugout to dugout to try and minimize that contact. We would reduce the number of teams that are allowed to stick around afterwards.”
However, in a cost-cutting measure, there will be no games under the lights should the leagues return to play.
“Basically, the demand of charges the City puts on us, it takes a year to eliminate that charge,” said Stoffer. “Since the last time we ran our lights was in September, if we don’t turn our lights on we can realize savings of about $10,000 to $12,000 over the course of the next season.”
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