Post-pandemic softball faces ‘fear factor’ in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam

Practices set to resume under Softball BC's "five-inning" return to play program

It’s going to be batter up at softball diamonds in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam this weekend.

Coquitlam Minor Softball Association is resuming practices for its approximately 200 registered players beginning Friday. Port Coquitlam Minor Softball has given the green light for its teams to start practising beginning Wednesday, June 17, provided players and coaches have signed a waiver.

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CMSA president Marty Tilt said it’s an important milestone in Softball BC’s “five-inning” return to play plan that could see kids playing games within the community as early as July, and then eventually against teams from neighbouring associations like Port Coquitlam and Burnaby and on to zone play against teams from Surrey and White Rock.

While Tilt said there’s no set timeline for that progression, CMSA is hoping to keep players active until the end of August, with the addition of a special program being developed by Softball BC for U6 and U8 players in mid-July.

“Moving to each of these steps will be done after careful consideration and evaluation” of the safety plan, Tilt said.

The plan, which follows guidelines set out in early June for all sports by viaSport, includes: tracking attendance at every organized session; specified arrival and departure times; the assignment of a “sanitizing champion” for each team who is responsible for cleaning equipment, bases, dugouts and even the latches on gates used to access the diamonds; limits on attendance at every diamond of no more than 50 players, coaches, officials and parents; and even directions on how to pick up the bat and pass it to the designated sanitizer before it can be used by another player.

Tilt said the strict procedures will help players, coaches and parents get comfortable with the new realities of sport in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is no doubt that the ‘fear factor’ will likely be the biggest challenge, at least initially,” he said. “Over time, things will return closer to normal, but we won’t rush it.”

Tilt said adherence to the new protocols will rest largely on the association’s volunteers, who’ve all been briefed on expectations.

“They understand the seriousness of the situation and the importance of doing this right,” he said, adding the association expects to make adjustments along the way as their base of knowledge of what works at the diamond and what doesn’t evolves.

Tilt said part of the organization’s cautious approach meant waiting several days to get back to playing ball after the city opened sports fields to registered users last Monday, so all the plans could be in place and properly communicated.

He said the months-long pause to the season that was supposed to start last April has led to 70 families pulling out, some of whom received full refunds while others deferred their registration fees to next year.

And now that the sound of the crack of the bat and balls snapping into leather gloves is imminent, Tilt said the anticipation is palpable.

“We have our fingers crossed that all the planning and work everyone has done at every level will give the kids a safe and enjoyable experience,” he said. “I think overall though, the kids are very excited to return to the field.”

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