‘Sandlot’ baseball provides a chance for kids to play during the pandemic

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

VICKSBURG, Mich. (WOOD) — The Southwest Michigan Little League may have canceled its season this year, but there’s a new way to play baseball during the pandemic.

District Administrator Joanne Willson says five of the 14 programs in the region are playing “Sandlot”-style baseball, which follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Little League International guidelines.

“We’re really not playing full tournament, we’re looking just to play ball. We don’t care if there’s an umpire on the field,” Willson said.

Brad Allison, the director of baseball for Vickburg Little League, says the dugouts are not used and players place their bags at tape marks spaced 6 feet apart along the outfield fence.

“We allow one coach on the field and that’s me, so I’m out there,” Allision said. “I spray the balls down every inning. I spray all the bats down. All the helmets down. I make sure that they’re staying apart.”

Fans also social distance in the stands and some watch from their cars.

The games are covered by Little League insurance and Allison says generous donations from parents and sponsors in the community have allowed his program to be provided for free.

“We have had parents that aren’t signed up for little league come out and register for the sandlot,” Allison said.

Evan Schiedel, who is going into the sixth grade this fall, is playing baseball in the program and was exited to hear there was still a way to participate.

“I was kind of sad that we couldn’t play baseball against other teams in the little league,” Evan said. “Now that we’re playing sandlot, it’s really cool.”

Coach Michael Roy says the program helps teach kids communication skills and how to work as a team while having fun.

“The excitement for the kids and the opportunity to play is just outstanding,” Roy said.

He says it allows kids the chance to keep up on their skills, even if the process is somewhat different.

“In between innings, there’s no high fiving, there’s no hugging, we kind of celebrate from a distance and we’re giving a lot of virtual high fives from 6 feet away,” Roy said.

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