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You could hear in Eufaula Parks and Recreation Department Director Keef Pettis’ voice.

“You just feel for the kids,” he said. “I feel awful for them.”

On Friday, the decision was made to cancel the 2020 baseball and softball season for the Parks and Rec leagues in Eufaula, a decision that weighed heavily on many involved but who eventually felt it was necessary due to the restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The bottom line is that it was for the safety of the kids, but we also wanted it to be a fun game,” Pettis said. “At first, we had 378 kids involved, but at last week’s meeting we had 132 left, and according to some coaches several parents of those kids said their kids wouldn’t play if their kids had to wear a mask. Let’s face it, there are some games that are in the blistering sun. That would be difficult.

“The keyword (in the order) is ‘shall.’ That’s pretty point blank. We were trying to get around it. They were going to close the dugout and turn it into sanitation areas. Parents were going to be spread out down the fence lines six feet apart. The kids want to play and laugh and cut up. The only exception to wearing a mask was if you were on defense, the hitter or on the on deck circle, but as soon as you came off the field you had to put on a mask.”

Eufaula Community Center Manager Jennifer Lunsford sent out the following release explaining the decision:

“The staff and Recreation Board at the Eufaula Parks and Recreation Department have reached a decision to cancel the 2020 baseball and softball season. This decision is based on the safety requirements set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Alabama Department of Public Health emergency order guidelines for public gatherings. EPR did not come to this decision without being proactive and making a thorough effort to play a regular season. EPR has consulted coaches and league presidents regularly; valuing their input along with volunteers in the program.

“EPR’s baseball and softball leagues are community-based programs dedicated to providing children of all skill levels a fun, engaging baseball and softball experience. Our leagues offer children the opportunity to experience and benefit from life lessons, socialization and camaraderie, which are all vital parts of youth sports. Therefore, during these uncertain times in our society when socialization and camaraderie are hard to experience, EPR feels it is in the best interest of everyone involved to cancel the season in all leagues.

“EPR would like to thank everyone who registered for youth baseball and softball and hopes everyone will return to the baseball and softball diamond next spring. Families are encouraged to use their registration fee as a credit toward any future program, membership, sport, etc. offered by EPR. All credits and refunds will be deducted $20.00 for the cost of uniforms. (Contact your coach if you haven’t already received your uniform). For more information, please contact Scott Flowers Monday-Friday between the hours of 10 a.m.-7 p.m. at (334) 687-1213, or email sflowers@eufaularecreation.com.

“Remember, this is a first for all of us, so please be patient as we try and maneuver through this process.”

Some kids will still have the option of playing travel ball, but it won’t be in Eufaula.

“A lot of them (travel leagues) play on city fields,” Pettis said. “They will not be playing here because it would be too difficult for us to enforce the rules for them.”

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