Fate of little league season still up in the air

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reopening plan, recreation falls under Phase Four meaning sports like little league baseball are still in limbo. 

Typically, the little league season starts mid-April, but as of Thursday, fields sit empty and eerily quiet. Most leagues are waiting on the state, their individual towns, and their parent companies ie. Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken to make a decision on whether a season is doable this year.

Jack Rigabar, 12, is in his final year of youth baseball. He said he and his teammates are eager to get back out there, looking for a three-peat in the state championships.

“If there’s not a season, I’m going to be really bummed out because I’ve been looking forward to it for awhile now. I just want to be able to play some baseball,” he said.

His father, Joe Rigabar, is the president of Saratoga-Wilton Little League. He told NEWS10 ABC that, while they’re still waiting on guidance from the state, they’re hopeful they can hold some sort of season if recreational sports are phased in in time.

“If we weren’t allowed to start playing until, let’s say July 1, we still feel as though we could get in pretty much a full season if we went through the end of August,” Joe said.

If the season is canceled or if families do not feel comfortable, he said they will be able to get a full refund.

“Much to my surprise, we’ve had very few takers on that, which just reaffirms for me how badly people want this to happen,” Joe said. “Out of over 400 families, I think we’ve had only had 12.”

Over in Niskayuna, however, some families are starting to express some concern. Dave Fields, the league’s president said they sent out a survey to all of their families.

“We’re up to just over 30% that have expressed nervousness to play or said they would not play. A lot of those are volunteer coaches as well, so now you may not have the coaching staff you had before,” said Fields.

Even if they do get the go ahead from the state, and they make changes to create a safe environment, he said they’re still, financially and logistically, at the mercy of their families in terms of being able to efficiently hold a season. 

“Another big thing to think about is the valve the Governor talks about. If we have to close that valve because something happens, now we’ve started the season and we’re three games in and now what do you do with refunds and health concerns and the money you’ve spent,” said Fields.

Fields said, before the pandemic hit, they already had the majority of their registration fees, sponsorships, and revenue laid out. They’ve already purchased uniforms and did some work to the fields, so they do have some fixed costs that they will have to incur. If the season is canceled, they are hoping that many families will choose to role over their registration fees towards next season.

John Fantauzzi has a 7-year-old son who had planned on playing this year. Fantauzzi is also a physician working on the front lines of the pandemic. He said he and his son love to play ball, but he thinks leagues should scrap the season.

“As much as I love baseball and my son loves baseball, you really can’t make an argument that it’s necessary. We would love to get out of the house, we would love to play, but there’s no real way to socially distance in baseball. There’s no real way to infection control it. I mean, to me, it’s an easy call,” he said.

Rigabar said if they were to play this season, it would certainly look different as they take steps to protect players, parents, coaches and umpires. He said while they are still working out guidelines, they’re looking at hand sanitizing between every inning, coaches and umpires wearing masks, no concession stand, and a limit on the amount of kids in the dugout.

“It won’t be the normal baseball experience with 12 kids in a dugout hanging on the fence and cheering for their teammates, which will be sad, but at the same time if we can just get them out on the field it will all be worth it,” said Rigabar.

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