Waiting game: With season's start uncertain, Little Leagues stay optimistic

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Like all spring sports, the local Little League season has been put on hold while the community works its way through the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Little League informed its member clubs that it will be opening things up on May 11, however, there is still a level of uncertainty as the crisis develops each day.

As the leagues wait to hopefully receive some good news, they are making the most of the situation and assessing their options.

“[Opening Day] is tentatively set for May 11 and they have not given us any inclination as to whether or not it will be extended even further out or what their plans are. They want us to stay optimistic. They feel that at some point there is going to be a season, they just don’t know to what extent. Internally, we are acting as if there will be a season, going through our normal protocols. We’re assuring families that no matter what happens, there’s going to be a season,” Cranston Western President Steven Piscopiello said.

In the meantime, CWLL has also been discussing adjusted schedules, including revised dates for the annual summer All-Star tournament.

“We have options that we have discussed if the May 11 date happens,” Piscopiello said. “We have discussed playing half the season, taking a break for All-Stars, then going back and playing even more games than usual and making it a fall classic. The other option is having the full season in the fall. The weather is definitely better in the fall, it is much easier to stay cool than the summer is and to be warmer than April is. The third option is to have a tryout for All-Stars and have the All-Star season first, then have the rest of the kids practicing and getting ready to play in the fall.”

Piscopiello has been in touch with the league’s families throughout the crisis, and urges them to remain confident and have faith that the league will make things right by year’s end.

“The biggest thing, and we’ve been trying to get this message out, we will not let these kids not have a season,” Piscopiello said. “Our whole objective will be to make sure they have one. Little League comes once in a lifetime. For these 12-year-olds especially, to miss their final season would be heartbreaking, the same way that it is going to be for high schoolers. We are going to make sure that they have some type of a season.”

Warwick North has been preparing for the season as well and has been business as usual despite the delayed start.

“We’re just trying to get our ducks in a row. We’ve been trying to maintain the fields, we were able to have our majors draft but the announcement came out on the day of our minors draft, so we had to postpone that. We are staying the course, for the majors teams, we are ordering uniforms. Our managers are keeping in touch with teams, developing videos for kids to do drills at home. Basic stuff like that. Things like throwing the ball on the roof and tracking where it lands, hitting,” said new Warwick North President Sean Wiggins.

Although the league has been excited to keep the kids busy with home workouts, Wiggins has also been asking families to be smart and obey the restrictions placed by the league.

“I’m hopeful, but we are following the Little League instructions. We are not having team meetings, not letting anyone on the fields, and we have been telling families to abide by those guidelines. If parents want to practice with their kids in their backyards, that’s great, we encourage that, but we have guidelines to follow. But we have hope, and that’s the biggest thing, hope. We need parents to be hopeful, we all want our kids to be outside, play and be active. We know that our season will not look like normal years, but we need to look at possible variations of that,” Wiggins said.

Despite the uncertainty, Wiggins has been happy to see his league’s families keep an open mind and continue to have a positive outlook during this tough time.

“Our community has been incredibly optimistic, especially the kids, they want to play,” Wiggins said. “Of course, we have had some concerns from some of our parents, but all in all, the idea is to open things late spring, early summer. Our parents want their kids to be active, and that’s been the philosophy. Everyone is scared with what is happening here, and I’m thankful for our governor and what she’s been doing to protect the kids while keeping them engaged. The overall climate for our league is that we’re hopefully optimistic.”

Johnston Little League President Ed Bedrosian has also encouraged parents to remain patient while the league takes things day by day and establishes a plan of action moving forward.

“Right now we can’t do anything which has been tough, everything has been put on hold. We have had some concerned parents, some have been asking about refunds, but we have been telling them to hang in there,” Bedrosian said. “I sent out an email [a few] days ago telling parents that I will do my best, and if the season gets going in May or June, we are going to try to salvage it. Even if kids do not want to play in the summer, we can give parents a refund, but we are looking to have at least five or six teams fielded so we can give the kids a season. We don’t know what’s going to happen at this point, but we’re going to do whatever we can.”

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