20200620-ts-sp Eckels pitching

St. Marys Minor League All-Star pitcher Avery Eckels delivers a pitch on her home field at Benzinger Park last summer. While there will be no All-Stars this summer, the St. Marys Little League (softball and baseball), has guidelines in place to start regular league play on July 6.

ST. MARYS — After two months of sitting empty, Memorial Park and Benzinger Park are set to welcome back Little League baseball and softball players after the St. Marys Little League announced it would return to play July 6.

Typically mid-June brings the end of the regular season as the leagues prepare to draft their All-Star teams and begin district play, but due to COVID-19, the 2020 season will have a much different feel.

“We were waiting for the region to go green to decide how we were going to precede,” St. Marys Little League Baseball President Mike Wendel said.

“After that, we met three or four times, both baseball and softball, trying to decide if we were going to be able to move forward within the guidelines that Little League (International) had set.”

Wendel noted that at first it appeared the league would have a hard time meeting the guidelines, but he now feels they can have a safe and successful season.

Both softball and baseball leagues expect to have four divisions this year in pee wees, minors, majors and a join junior/senior division, as the season will run through August 14.

Wendel and St. Marys Little League Softball President Shannon Eckels noted they would know more about how many teams and divisions they will be able to have in the coming days.

Any parents or guardians interested in having their child play this summer must sign a waiver that requires a signature from both parents/guardians, or any parent or guardian interested receiving a refund if they do not want to have their child play, must attend one of two mandatory meetings this week.

The first session will be held Monday at Memorial Park from 6-8 p.m. at the concession stand pavilion, as the second session is from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at Benzinger Park’s Premier Field.

“I’m hoping we can keep all four divisions so we can build those fundamentals with younger age groups, then with older girls continue to teach those fundamentals but get them into some more competitive-type games,” Eckels said. “We’ll see what the turnout is and have make some decisions from there.”

Wendel added that both leagues will accept any interested players from the surrounding areas including Johnsonburg and Ridgway.

Registration will be open on the league’s website, stmarysll.com, until Wednesday, but all parents and guardians who register still must attend one of the upcoming mandatory meetings.

Wendel said that after registration closes, he expects to draft the baseball teams on Wednesday and Thursday.

Both Eckels and Wendel understand that numbers may be down this year for a multitude of reasons, but are both looking forward to kids returning to the field.

“It will be a good six weeks (of play). Definitely not a full season, but it’s the best we can do under these circumstances we’re in this summer,” Eckels said.

Wendel added, “It was disappointing to think there would be no baseball this year, we’re used to having the fields filled with families and it was a shame to think there would be no activity. We’re really happy we will have a season and the kids are excited.”

Here is a breakdown of the guidelines put in place by the St. Marys Little League for the 2020 season:

Social Distancing: Players will social distance using dugouts, bleachers beside each dugout along 1st/3rd base of the field.

A league member will monitor for social distancing and remind the players of social distancing.

Bleachers will be marked with spots for sitting.

Player area will be roped off to keep it separated from the spectator areas.

All spectators MUST watch from the outfield.

Facemasks: Players are not required to wear face coverings, but may do so if their parent/guardian would like them to in areas where social distancing is challenging.

Coaches, volunteers and umpires should wear a face covering when social distancing is not possible.

Hygiene: Hand sanitizer will be provided in both dugouts.

Players, coaches, umpires and volunteers are encouraged to use it often.

Balls will be rotated often.

Equipment will NOT be shared under any circumstances.

Multiple sets of catching gear will be provided.

Dugouts will be cleaned and sanitized before and after each session.

Eckels noted that the community has stepped up to help keep the players safe, as the bottles and hand sanitizer for the entire season was donated to the league.

“Triple Nickel Distillery donated a ton of hand sanitizer and spray for both leagues so we can keep the kids safe and sanitize all the areas we’re using for social distancing,” Eckels said. “GrafTech donated all the bottles (for hand sanitizer), and all we had to do was take them down and Triple Nickel filled them all up for us, which is pretty cool.”

Parents/Guardians: Please monitor your child for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 prior to attending any Little League activities: This includes fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, etc.

If your child has any symptoms or has been exposed to COVID-19, please stay home and notify us immediately.

No spectators should retrieve any foul balls at any time.

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