Slowly, youth baseball has returned to communities around the country, with many destinations hosting travel-team tournaments.
One facility not yet ready to welcome players back, citing county health orders during the coronavirus pandemic, is Sigman Field at Centerville Community Park in Fremont, Calif. Despite being locked, the synthetic turf field was used for several youth baseball games — complete with coaches, umpires and spectators — during one weekend in June. Face masks were worn and no social distancing appeared to be in place, according to The Mercury News in San Jose, Calif.
“We did not approve this,” Suzanne Wolf, Fremont’s community services director, told the paper, adding that in addition to locks, all city athletic fields have signs posted informing visitors that facilities are closed. “We want to ensure that the health order is being complied with in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19.”
Alameda County’s health order at the time stipulated that “sports or activities that include the use of shared equipment or physical contact between participants may only be engaged in by members of the same household or living unit,” The Mercury News reports. Exceptions were made for tennis and pickleball if only two people from a maximum of two households were playing.
In this case, Wolf told reporters that it appears whatever teams used the Fresno fields removed the posted signage and left behind a pitcher’s mound. City officials changed the locks and were seeking ways to more effectively communicate health and safety messages to community sports leaders.
“When we hear of this type of brazen event, we are surprised and we really want to work with the team to understand why they would do this…and to make sure that we have better communication and better understanding moving forward,” Wolf said.
For the record, players being upset about closed facilities – well, that’s not exactly an isolated incident. In Minneapolis, players flooded a park office with calls after they found the courts locked, despite the fact that the USTA had released guidelines for safe return to play. (In Rinconada, near Palo Alto, California, players simply broke into the courts, causing the mayor to chastise them on Twitter.
Many national governing bodies and event owners have released return to play guidelines, but it is doubtful that those breaking into venues are obeying them.
Players have begun climbing fences, cutting locks and crawling under barricades to get into sports facilities. Kentucky officials remarked recently on the fact that in addition to sports facilities being used, parents were cutting tape off tot lots and swing sets and taking groups of children in to, often with no safety precautions being taken.
In addition, many cities have removed pickleball and tennis nets as well as basketball hoops – and yet still see individuals on the facilities using makeshift equipment.
Closed-to-the-public dog parks, running tracks and other facilities were also getting use by scofflaws, said officials in Arlington, Virginia. And, accordingly, there has been an uptick in cases of COVID-19, which has led to cancellations of some of those events meant to show, “We’re stronger than COVID-19.”