Sounds of kids playing, fans cheering them on, and umpires calling players out or safe have been quieted at the Old Creek Town playing fields. Eufaula Parks and Recreation Department Director Keef Pettis hopes it’s just a temporary delay.
“Everybody has their teams they’re on and their uniforms,” Pettis said. “We’ve been getting ready for the season since March 30.”
Until Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey lifts orders and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fields will remain empty.
Pettis hopes there can still be a season, but to do so he believes they would need to start by “the middle of May at the latest.” Usual league play is 15 games, and Pettis does not want to have leagues cut to half of that or even less just to have all-stars/postseason play.
“We will still try to alter the season in some way,” Pettis said. “Dixie Softball and Dixie Baseball have been working to see if they can still have tournaments. There is some wiggle room. The rules say you have to finish the World Series before school starts (in August). But, if we don’t start soon...”
District tournament play would need to be finished by the end of June, and state tournament and World Series play by early August.
“Our first priority is to let all the kids have a season,” Pettis said. “All of those kids deserve to play as much as possible. We want to have all-stars, but we don’t want to play a six-game season.”
Eufaula is expected to have 38 teams of youth softball and baseball this season with about 400 kids ranging in ages 4-12.
The domino effect goes far deeper than just the kids on the field with the delay. Parks and Rec employees 12 full-time and several part-timers during the season. Umpires, who have their own association, are also affected.
“We want to practice at least a week, but it all depends on what is decided with all-stars,” Pettis said. “We don’t want to rush into anything and hurt someone’s arm, you know.”
Pettis added that Old Creek Town — ball fields and the playground area aside — is still open for visitors that just want to enjoy the area, including walking and fishing, as long as social distancing is practiced.
The Yoholo Micco Walking Trail is still open, too.
“There is a lot of uncertainty with the season,” Pettis noted. “Some are wanting a refund. If a lot of those happen will have to have a re-draft and buy new uniforms. That’s a whole new situation. Once we get a decision made we will know how to plan and what to do.”