Little League

Westerly National and Chariho Little Leagues are hoping to start a baseball season in early July. | Sun file photo

Westerly National and Chariho Little League officials are making progress toward playing baseball games this summer.

Westerly National started clinics this week, with about 100 players divided into 10 groups. The clinics, which focus on baseball fundamentals, will continue twice a week for four weeks.

Westerly National made the decision to cancel its spring program in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chariho, on the other hand, delayed its spring season and is hoping to begin practices next week. The league expects to have about 200 participants.

"We hope to have games and scrimmages in July," said Art Burton, president of Westerly National Little League.

Josh Davis, president of Chariho Little League, has similar goals.

"We are projecting games can start the second or third week of July," Davis said.

Both Burton and Davis said playing games will hinge on when Gov. Gina Raimondo moves the state to Phase III of the reopening process. They hope Raimondo makes a decision by July 1.

Recent statewide testing numbers seem to be heading in the right direction. On Monday, the state Department of Health said 151 of 8,726 tests were positive for COVID-19 for a rate of 1.7 percent. It was the lowest rate since the state started widespread testing.

Burton said Westerly National games will be less formal and will be played without official umpires. League board members or coaches could serve as volunteers.

"It's going to be more like a sandlot game," Burton said. "It's a step in the right direction. It's imperative for their growth and development. We tried to keep the cost down. For $25 they get a T-shirt and a neck gaiter. We wanted to get as many kids out and doing something. We hope to have games through July and then start fall ball."

Restrictions based on the DOH and CDC guidelines will be in place at both organizations.

For example, in Westerly, parents will have to be 14 feet away from the groups. Coaches will have to wear masks if they can't maintain a 6-foot distance from players. Dugouts will be closed to players.

Some examples of precautions in Chariho include the sanitizing of all equipment between uses. Team-specific baseballs will be sanitized between innings.

Roster sizes will be limited, with the younger age groups having smaller rosters.

"My goal is try and keep people as safe as possible," Davis said. "I'm excited. We will have to play things by ear, remain optimistic and hope things turn out the best for everybody."

Davis said Chariho is unsure what it will do if someone tests positive for the virus.

Burton said if someone tests positive in Westerly the coach or player along with all the players in that group would need to quarantine for 14 days before returning.

"[Tuesday] was our first day for the clinic. The smiles on everyone's faces was the first time I've seen so many smiles in one place since this whole thing started," Burton said. "It was great to see all the players back on the field. Most of these players have not seen each other in person since they were in school."

Burton thanked the league's volunteers and coaches for pulling the clinic together and the parents for their patience.

In Connecticut, the Pawcatuck and North Stonington Little Leagues also canceled their spring seasons. They are waiting until July 1 to reassess the situation. Officials previously said they would combine forces to play games, if possible.

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