Please note, this is a fictional story and not based on actual people, places, or events. It is merely as story I HOPE will happen in the Summer of 2020.
Sarah Parker knew that for at least the foreseeable future, watching her daughter Allison from afar was much, much better than not watching her at all. Throughout the Winter and Spring of 2020, the board of directors at Shoreham Baseball League maintained a constant dialogue with parents, giving them reasonable expectations about when the season would start, ensuring that the safety of the players and league as a community was the most important factor in their decision making. Parents were upset, parents protested and demanded the league open up, some were vigilant, and there were some very contentious moments during Zoom executive board meetings with parents with very strong political views. Luckily for Sarah and the other Shoreham parents, the league’s experienced board of directors stood firmly on the safety aspect of the re-opening of baseball and remained optimistic in their approach to start the season when the time was right.
That time came shortly after nearly 5,000 Rhode Island parents, coaches, volunteers, and supporters of baseball signed an online petition to be presented to the State of Rhode Island’s “Task Force on Youth Sports.” The overwhelming response to the petition prompted the State of Rhode Island to take a closer look at youth sports, their place in Rhode Island communities big and small, and their impact on the youth of Rhode Island as well as the businesses that support youth baseball. Local baseball leaders gathered with State leaders and ironed out a comprehensive safety plan to re-open baseball practices, games, even tournaments for the summer months starting in mid-June. No exceptions, strict safety restrictions would need to bbe followed to the letter! In total 35 Rhode Island youth baseball leagues, like Shoreham, agreed to the safety plans and baseball was back on the calendar.
The new safety guidelines outlined in the proposal included parents, fans, and spectators maintaining social distancing at all times. Shoreham had presented the parents the comprehensive plan by the State and had adapted some of the rules to fit Emerson Field. The plan was not to be deviated from or altered in any way or risk sanctions by the State, including suspension of play. For example, the State plan suggested that parents and fans stay in their vehicles to watch games but also be allowed to spread out along the outfield fence, socially distancing at least 6 feet apart. Any person at risk of contracting the virus, any at risk member of the Shoreham community would be asked to stay in their vehicle at all times to watch the game. Face masks or coverings were required outside of vehicles at all times. Emerson had a decent size parking lot, but had a bit of a downward slope so only the cars in the front of the parking lot had views of the field. Shoreham set up signs in the outfield labeled “Sit/Stand Here” to help parents find a socially distant spot. Parents were not allowed to physically interact with their players during the game. The bleachers, once filled with fans, parents, and family were now to be used exclusively by the players as an overflow for the dugout areas. Dugout areas were to have a maximum of 5 players with one coach standing just outside the dugout. No sunflower seeds, no spitting, no high fives, no hugs, no extra celebrations, not at this juncture. With the new safety guidelines in place, the first game of the season took place in mid-June.
As instructed and agreed upon, Sarah Parker watched and waited patiently in her car, in the parking lot facing Emerson Field. Sarah and the other Shoreham League parents cheered the game action, texted friends and family with photos, and posted on social media – all in the comfort of their own vehicles parked strategically and safely away from each other as well as along the outfield fence positioned at least 6 feet apart. To get the best views, parents would even rotate parking spots or vantage points in center field when one of their own was at bat. Shoreham League was a family and they supported each and every player on each and every team. And, with the new league safety restrictions in place, they respected the rules and guidelines set forth by the league’s board of directors upon opening the summer baseball season. For Sarah, it was a welcome sight to see her daughter out playing baseball again with her friends.
The traditional handshakes after the game, post game pep talk in right field by Coach Fields, stop at the concession stand for M&M’s, and massive exodus from the field by family and players were not part of the re-opening plan. Instead, Sarah watched as Allison packed up her baseball bag, waved good-bye to her teammates, thanked her coaches one by one, and walked alone, across the pitcher’s mound, kicked dirt as she passed through shortstop, head down as she reached the thick grass of left field, and then through the open gate in the outfield fence area. Sarah got out of her car and yelled “over here, Honey” to Allison, who picked her head up hearing her Mom’s voice. Allison had a smirk on her face but tried to hide it with her hat as she maneuvered through the other parked cars to get to her Mom. Sarah popped the trunk and Allison placed her baseball bag inside and tapped it twice, something she did to pay homage to her late grandfather, who worn the #2 for the St. Louis Cardinals. A few other parents yelled over to Allison, “great game” and “wow, what a game Ally” and “see you Saturday, from the parking lot.” Allison opened the front door of her Mom’s car, sat down, shut the door, buckled her seat belt, and removed her cap.
“What the heck was that and where is Allison Parker,” joked Sarah to her daughter, who was now grinning from ear to ear. Allison couldn’t hold it in any longer and yelled out a scream, “Man did that feel good!!!” “Ally, I have never seen you hit the ball like that,” continued Sarah. “I don’t know, I guess all the pent up energy from not playing this Spring? I just swung as hard as I could and, wow,” Allison replied as she began dancing and waving her arms in her buckled in seat. “I mean you hit the scoreboard so hard you knocked the runs sign off. It was like something out of a movie.” Sarah could hardly contain her enthusiasm. “I am so proud of all the hard work you put in this Winter and in the yard with the Tee. It really has paid off, Ally. Good for you.” Allison took a deep breathe and exhaled, recognizing that she had put in a ton of work to get ready, ready whenever the league would start up. “I am so ready for my next game. Can we get Chan’s tonight to celebrate?” asked Allison. “Way ahead of you, kid. I called in a reservation for their new outdoor dining area and we have a table for two set up for 6pm. If we hurry, we can just about make it.” And with that, Sarah and Allison Parker celebrated a most successful Game 1 of the 2020 Shoreham Summer Baseball Season.