Athletes return to the baseball field – precautions still in place
ROCHESTER — Baseball players have returned to the field on Dexter Lane to sharpen their skills, but full-fledged games are not allowed yet, and athletes and coaches are taking precautions against the coronavirus.
The American Legion Baseball League consists of athletes between the ages of 13 and 19 across the United States and Canada. The league canceled its summer season in light of the pandemic, but as restrictions have loosened, some coaches in southeastern Massachusetts have started to host tryouts and workouts in the hopes of being able to compete against each other in an independent “Area X” league later this summer.
On Saturday, June 13, coaches of the “Gateway” team hosted tryouts for players from Wareham, the Tri-Town, and surrounding areas. The tryouts were broken up into different groups throughout the day, and players spaced out across the field to mitigate any possible spreading of the coronavirus.
At 2:45 p.m. a group of about 20 athletes in the 16-19-year-old division took to the field for a series of drills, as coaches gauged their ability levels.
Head Coach Keith Delgado said he hopes to have games by early July, but that is subject to change based on state guidelines, and that player safety is “first and foremost.”
In the meantime, players can still work on throwing, and batting, but “we’re not really getting into the contact side of it” yet, so things like tagging baserunners is off limits for now.
Players also have to spread out as much as they can, and they are not allowed to use the dugouts, because it is impractical to maintain social distance in a closed space.
Despite the limitations, many of the players were happy to get back on the field, especially since the high school spring sports season was canceled.
AJ Lecuyer, 18, of Wareham said that just getting on the field for drills was “a lot better than we thought we'd get about three months ago,” when it seemed like the summer baseball season would be completely canceled.
Lecuyer said that the thing he missed most about baseball during quarantine was being part of a team, and being around other people.
Wareham High School senior Khai Delagado said that the summer league offered a chance to make up for a missed opportunity this spring. He added that baseball is a sport well-suited to social distancing.
“I know keeping distance on a baseball field isn’t the hardest thing in the world,” he said, since defenders don’t have to “cover” the other team like in basketball or football.
After players checked in, signed waivers, and placed their bags a few feet apart from each other, coaches led them through a series of drills, giving players a chance to showcase their ability.
After a warmup of running, and playing catch, coaches tested players’ fielding abilities.
Catchers were challenged to catch a pitcher’s throw, and then pass to infielders with speed and accuracy. Infielders stopped ground balls, and threw the ball to their teammates, and outfielders caught fly balls, and hurled the ball back to home base, or a cutoff man.
From there, players took turns at batting practice, as coach Delgado threw them pitches.
While this was a tryout and not a practice, Delgado said that he would like to let as many players join as possible. The Area X league will allow teams to have up to 22 players, while the American Legion only allowed 18-member teams.
While many players did their best to stay in shape during the quarantine, Saturday’s tryout session allowed them to get back on a baseball field and hone game-specific skills.
Wareham’s Connor Reidy, 17, said that the session “definitely shook off some rust.”
To learn more about the Wareham-based team, see its Facebook page.