A 10-page document, detailing a safe and secured return to baseball in the country, is currently under review by health and government officials, according to multiple sources.
The main question among baseball enthusiasts is, will the 2020 season be lost and will baseball start up in time for the new season in September? Action doesn’t normally get underway until December/January, but online registration is ongoing from September, particularly at the Junior Baseball League of Nassau (JBLN). The two chief leagues in New Providence, JBLN and Freedom Farm, contemplated play this summer, resuming their seasons that were stopped in March due to the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The prospect of completing the season, for both JBLN and Freedom Farm, looks more and more grim as the days go by.
“We don’t believe that we will be able to complete this season,” said JBLN President Jeffrey Walcott. “There are a number of factors that are involved here. We just don’t know when everything is going to open up – that’s the first thing. The second thing is that the safety document that was prepared by the BBA (Bahamas Baseball Association) has to go through the various government approvals before we could put it into play; 2020 looks grim. Even though we haven’t made an official statement as yet, we believe that we will come to a final decision by our next board meeting.”
According to Clarence “CJ’’ Mckenzie, the chairman of the COVID-19 Response Safety Committee, established by the BBA, over 100 recommendations are included in the document which is now in the hands of health and government officials. He said they sought advice from international partners such as the Babe Ruth League, Little League Baseball, COPABE (Pan American Baseball Confederation) and the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC).
“It’s just about providing a framework for leagues to follow and recommending a timeframe when leagues could resume baseball activities,” he said.
JBLN President Walcott said implementing the various protocols would be very difficult.
“These are young kids and you’re asking them to practice social distancing which we know will be very difficult to manage, especially in tee ball and coach pitch. We are hopeful, but in terms of competing the 2020 season, we just don’t see how it will be possible to complete it considering all of the factors and the protocols that has to be in place for the season to be completed successfully,” he said.
The country is into phase four of the national reopening of the economy plan, moving into phase five. In phase four, group exercise with social distancing is permitted, and in phase five, restrictions on all movement are lifted. On July 1, gyms and spas in the country will be allowed to reopen provided they follow the appropriate health and safety protocols. Group exercise outdoors will also be permitted.
Walcott said hopefully they will be able to get some semblance of activity this summer.
“For our seniors, if phase five opens up and we are able to get back to the field, we may be able to do some summer ball at our field to keep the guys fresh and get them engaged in some action before they return to university. We might look at that as an option to get some normalcy back,” he said. “When you look at it, registration starts in September so a lot of things have to be in place for next season if we are going to be moving forward. There are a lot of things that we have to take into consideration, but our number one concern remains the health and safety of our players, coaches, parents, spectators, workers and league officials. We’re not going to do anything to compromise the safety of anybody.”
McKenzie said they are anticipating a response from health and government officials sometime next week. Both leagues are expected to make a final decision following the recommendation and advice from health and government officials.
The new coronavirus numbers have leveled off in the country in recent weeks but the numbers remain on the rise internationally, particularly with The Bahamas’ closest neighbor, the USA. There are over 9.3 million cases worldwide and about 480,000 deaths. The USA is the most impacted country with over 2.4 million cases and over 123,000 deaths. Here in The Bahamas, there hasn’t been a recorded case since June 14. There remains 104 cases with 11 deaths.