- August 25, 2016
One of the country’s most beloved sports pastimes is coming back to full strength in the next month, as local youngsters return to the diamond to participate in Winter Garden Little League’s spring baseball season.
Last year, the league was forced to cancel its spring season due to COVID-19. It was able to get in its Sandlot Days, new league president Joshua Steele said. But what followed was months of waiting.
“There was a lot of up-in-the-air (conversation) that we might not have a season,” said Steele, who stepped into his presidential role in October. “I kept hearing from several different people who said they were worried about signing up because of exactly that — they were afraid there wouldn’t be a season or get shut down. So, some people have gone elsewhere to play travel ball or to the Babe Ruth League.”
The concern was understandable. In a letter sent Tuesday, Jan. 5, to families, Steele sought to calm nerves and noted the league was moving ahead with its season.
“Little League International is moving forward with the spring season, including (All Star) tournament play, and has provided us with guidance on how to conduct a full season while following recommendations from the CDC,” Steele wrote.
A few weeks ago, Steele said the fear in the community resulted in low registration numbers. Following the outreach, the league has seen a spike in participation.
Numbers are still a little lower than what they normally would be, but each division — from T-ball to juniors — will have a handful of teams each. T-ball has seen the most growth of all the age groups, thanks in part to lower fees.
The registration deadline was extended to Friday, Jan. 29. Evaluations will take place the following day at WGLL Fields. The regular season will span 10 weeks beginning Monday, Feb. 22.
Although much has changed since last season, the rules implemented by the city of Winter Garden and the league haven’t, Steele said. Parents and fans in the stands still will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing, while coaches also will continue to wear masks. The biggest difference is limited concessions will be available.
“Everybody wants to get back to regular baseball, and that’s kind of the question we get asked all the time: ‘How normal is the season going to be, and what kind of restrictions are we going to have?’” Steele said. “We’re happy to tell them that if it’s just people wearing masks … it’s kind of a small price to pay to get back to Little League baseball.
“I’m extremely excited about,” he said. “I’ve been a part of the league since 2008 as either a coach or board member, so I kind of share the same sentiment as most of the people in the league that we’re just excited to get baseball back and get the kids on the field playing.”