Despite Stanislaus County’s current status in the purple tier of coronavirus restrictions, Turlock’s Little League organizations are hopeful that kids will be able to play this spring and are preparing for the season now.
Youth baseball and softball can’t be played in California until a county is in the red tier of the state’s Blueprint For a Safer Economy, which requires between four and seven daily new COVID cases per 100,000 residents and a 5% to 8% seven-day positivity rate. As of Tuesday, Stanislaus County’s risk level is still considered widespread, with 34.5 new COVID cases daily per 100,000 residents and a 9.1% seven-day positivity rate.
Once those numbers fall low enough for the county to be in the red tier, considered a substantial risk level, practices can begin for Turlock American Little League and Turlock National Little League baseball, as well as TNLL softball. Both City- and school district-owned fields are typically used to practice and play on as well and cannot be utilized until the county is in the red tier. All three organizations hope that games can start as soon as the first week of April and are currently offering no-cost registration for families.
Once the leagues get the go-ahead to begin, registrants can either opt out or pay to move forward with the season. So far, all three leagues have seen a dip in registration this year compared to years past.
“We’re not 100% sure why it is, but we believe there is still a lot of fear out there regarding COVID as far as the safety about being out there,” TNLL softball vice president Regina Coletto said. “But there’s also a lot of people saying, ‘I don't want to sign up until we know we can play.’”
TALL president Otto Askil expects more players to register in the coming days and weeks ahead of the potential season. So far, about 160 players have registered to play TALL baseball, he said; during a normal season, close to 250 would sign up to play. Askil said they will accept registration up until the season starts in order to give everyone a chance to get on the field.
“I know some people are still hesitant, even though we’re not charging yet,” Askil said. “We’re very hopeful and cautiously optimistic, if that’s the right phrase to use, that we’ll be able to move forward...the main priority is getting the kids back to playing what is, in my opinion, America’s pastime.”
Registration for TNLL baseball and softball is down about 50%, Coletto said, and the organizations have hosted Zoom calls with families in order to help them register for the leagues. Another Zoom help session will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, with more information available on the “Turlock Little League Softball” Facebook page.
“This is a no-risk registration. Just let us know that you want to play, go online to register and get put on a waitlist. You’re charged nothing until we know we can play,” Coletto said. “It’s our goal to do everything in our power to get kids on the field playing. It’s going to look different this year and it’s going to feel different this year just like everything in the past year has felt for all of us with COVID, and we’re just encouraging people to be okay with that and put it in their mind that at least they can get their kids on the field to play baseball and softball.”
All leagues are hopeful that the red tier will be reached soon, allowing for player evaluations to begin and teams to be created. Until then, plenty of behind-the-scenes planning continues in order to provide a season. Askil stated that he anticipates a full season of eight to 10 weeks to be played no matter when the start date is, allowing maximum playing time for Turlock’s youth athletes.
“The majority of kids will get to play — that’s the key,” he said.
For more information and instructions on how to register for TALL and TNLL baseball or TNLL softball, visit their websites: www.turlockamericanlittleleague.com, www.tnllbaseball.com and www.turlockllsoftball.com.