Phase 3 of Rhode Island’s ReOpening RI plan allowed for summer baseball leagues to begin their schedules in late June/early July. During previous phases, only small gatherings and practices were allowed due to health concerns. Leagues waited anxiously for the decision to allow larger groups to gather and when that decision was made public, a collected virtual cheer could be heard from Westerly to Woonsocket, from Newport to North Kingstown, Johnston to Chariho and every youth baseball town in between.

On a local league level, communities are putting up signage around the baseball fences surrounding the fields. Signage includes instructions on social distancing, wearing a mask, and other CDC protocol for attending games if you are sick. I have seen some leagues use caution tape to block off the bleachers next to the dugouts so players can sit in the bleachers during the game, as opposed to the close quarters of the dugout. I have seen bleachers with “X” marked 6 feet apart so families and fans know where to sit safely during a game. League waivers have been sent out to families regarding league policies for attending games.

Summer baseball, 2020, I am happy to report: It is the same ole baseball. Pitchers and catchers work together to get batters out. Hitters swing hard and run the bases. Fielders run after fly balls and infielders get dirty knocking down ground balls down the third base line. The smile on the face of a hitter as he rounds first base knowing he drove in a run – it is back. The sound of a hissing fastball hurled 60′ 6″ away, racing toward the plate, only to be met by the thump of a mighty swing – it is back. Dirty uniforms, fans cheering for their favorite player, coaches exchanging line up cards, umpires making an emphatic third strike call like they are starting a chainsaw – yep, they are all back.

Summer baseball, 2020, I am sure the powers that be in RI will be happy to hear: it has a different look. The coaches, most that I have observed, all wear masks or face coverings the entire game. When they are on the field coaching third base or first base or interacting with the umpires, they are wearing a face covering. I attended two games yesterday in “uncomfortable” humidity and at both games all coaches wore masks. The players are all required to have masks when they arrive at the field and some elected to wear them during the game itself and at bat. The field umpires are wearing masks. My son umpires for North Kingstown Wickford Little League and calls balls/strikes behind the mound, not behind home plate. I saw this also at a Connie Mack baseball game yesterday as well – home plate umpire was behind the mound, wearing a mask. Fans are spread out along fences and in the bleachers, far enough apart and yet close enough to catch up on old times. At the end of the game between North Kingstown Wickford and Chariho Little League, players and coaches tipped their caps/removed their caps to congratulate the other team. No handshakes, no high fives, no spitting, no sunflower seeds – yep this summer baseball season has a different look.

Many, many changes and yet baseball is back and it is a beautiful thing. It was so incredible to see my son, his fellow NKW Little League Seniors, the Chariho players, the fans, my NKW friends for close to 10 years, my mother at the game yesterday. Baseball games are great to watch and FUN to attend. I have really missed watching the games live with my mom in the stands. And to catch up with all the great families from not only North Kingstown, but all over the Rhode Island baseball community. And I am especially happy for my son and all the youth baseball players who are now getting an opportunity to play Summer Baseball, 2020 with all of its different looks, yet it is the same ole game.