Registration has opened for both Scotts Valley and San Lorenzo Valley little leagues, with hopes to begin games soon.
The schedules for both leagues have been greatly delayed due to the pandemic, the CZU Lightning Complex fires and the recent debris flow evacuations. Still, both league president said they are trying to squeeze in as many games as possible.
“It hasn’t been on the front of everyone’s mind in the valley, what with evacuations, fires, and Covid-19,” San Lorenzo Valley Little League (SLVLL) President Steve Yatson said. “We’ve been really focused on handling Covid requirements before anything else and we feel good about that now. So now we’re getting to the baseball part of it, which is a lot.”
Scotts Valley Little League (SVLL) co-President Steve Vignato said the league hopes to have a 10-12 game season, instead of the normal 12-14.
“Unfortunately, the seasons can’t go longer due to tournament play,” he said. “Little League international has a completion date.”
In addition to registration delays, both leagues are struggling to plan tryouts. In a regular year, SVLL tryouts would normally occur over MLK weekend and lead into a month of practice without games. This year the board has not yet decided how to conduct them.
“Should we draft the kids we know and randomly select those we don’t? Or host a limited tryout with smaller groups? These are kinks we have to work out,” Vignato said.
Yatson said SLVLL is considering similar options, either scaled down and opt-in tryouts or a random draw.
Yatson is more concerned with registration numbers than tryout procedures.
“I’m guessing, based on current numbers, that we’ll have 40% of players compared to last year,” he said.
However, fewer teams may work in SLVLL’s favor, as they’ve struggled to find field space.
“We have access to county fields, but we usually use school district fields as well,” he said. “This year we have no idea when and if we’ll be able to use school fields.”
The leagues are also busy figuring out how parent volunteers—the lifeblood of little league organizations—can safely donate their time.
“The worst thing that could happen is starting the season and having folks not follow protocol, like coaches or kids not wearing masks or spectators not distancing,” Vignato said. “We could get shut down, so we need to monitor and make sure that doesn’t happen. We need lots of parents helping those follow our posted signs.”
The game itself will be modified, too, Vignato said.
“We’re still writing plans so we’re not sure exactly what it’ll look like, but we know we can’t share equipment, like catcher’s gear and bats. We’ll definitely sanitize and social distance, but we’re still fine tuning our final plans… everything has changed and we have to be willing as a little league to adapt. We’re just happy to get kids back out there as safely as possible and let them enjoy what they do, playing ball.”