Nebraska Announces Return of Youth Softball, Baseball

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Nebraska has a plan to keep summer somewhat normal during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Monday that youth baseball and softball will return next month. The Lincoln Journal Star reported that Ricketts’ plan is for baseball and softball practices to begin June 1, with games starting June 18.

“We really want to step in this slowly so we can see how this works,” Ricketts said, noting that baseball and softball were chosen ahead of the other sports because they involve limited person-to-person contact. “We want to take this a step at a time to see how we can roll this out.”

Nebraska's announcement comes after the Associated Press report that at least 25 states have already canceled American Legion Baseball for the entire summer.

"Everyone involved in our program hopes to have American Legion Baseball in 2020, but this was a necessary decision," Wisconsin American Legion Baseball Commissioner Roger Mathison said in a press release announcing the organization's cancellation. "There were a number of factors that the board took under consideration, primarily the health of players, coaches, umpires, parents, fans and volunteers involved in the program."

According to the Journal Star, the last organized team sporting event in Nebraska was the boys’ state basketball tournament on March 14. A number of new restrictions will be in place when sports return.

Guidelines will be in place to limit contact and the potential spread of the coronavirus. Fans in attendance must be household members that stand or use their own chairs; players must stay out of dugouts and use their own equipment as much as possible; player equipment should be lined up against the fence at least 6 feet apart from each other; parents must remain in their cars at practice or drop off and pick up players; coaches must sanitize shared equipment before each practice; players must bring their own drink and there will be no shared snacks; concession stands will remain closed; spectators at tournaments must remain in their cars unless their team is playing; and there will be no postgame handshakes.

Related content: Youth Baseball Returns to Missouri Amid Pandemic

Nebraska officials will watch closely to see how the guidelines are implemented and followed. Schools across the state will also be allowed to open weight rooms June 1.

“The reality I think for us is using every little moment to see how coaches interact, how parents work with coaches and their players to make sure there is some safety,” Nebraska commissioner of education Matthew Blomstedt said. “Baseball is different than some of our other sports, so there’s going to be further conversations about what they might look like, but at least it gives us a start to look at fan behavior and parent-coaches behavior.”

Related content: Indiana Eyes Complicated Return of Youth, HS Sports

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