January 23, 2021

‘It’s going to be a little bit different’

Changes coming to 2020 baseball and softball season

The high school summer sports season will officially return to ball fields across Iowa starting June 1.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed off on high school baseball and softball to begin their summer sports seasons June 1 Wednesday morning, with the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union following suit later in the day.

For Creston’s athletic director Scott Driskell, the expectation after seeing Reynolds’ announcement was that the season was going to be happening with a definite answer from both unions soon to follow.

“Her saying we could have it meant I needed to wait to hear from (both associations),” said Driskell. “... To me that was just the door opening, and the one thing I knew would have to happen was that the unions would have to get a message out some time soon. ... I was telling my coaches, I thought it would be today or first thing tomorrow morning.”

The announcement was widely received as good news amongst local sports fans, parents and coaches, but it comes with a caveat. Team’s a requested to follow a list of practices to keep each sport clean and sanitized while also trying to prevent a confirmed case of COVID-19 from making its way into the sport.

To Driskell, this is where the challenge comes in.

“The encouraging thing, ... is they’ve got two weeks of practice. That two weeks is not just going to be about getting in swings and taking ground balls, ... but it’s going to be constant social distancing repetition by our coaches. ... It’s going to be a little bit different.”

Driskell said he will meet with softball coach Mike McCabe and baseball coach Steve Birchard to see what is feasible and what is not to meet guidelines set out by the unions.

For fans, it is expected they too will adhere to social distancing rules despite limited seating being available on bleachers.

“I’m hopeful our fans that do come to a game, will understand it’s still expected,” said Driskell. “... The way I look at it, we were given a gift with the opportunity to play. Our spring sports were lost and they don’t get that chance. We’ve got an opportunity here, so we have to have everyone work together to follow those policies.”

Some requested policies include:

– Players should use their own gloves, helmets, and bats as much as possible.

– Use of dugouts is permitted during games only.

– Schools must limit the use of bleachers for fans. Encourage fans to bring their own chairs or stand.Fans should practice social distancing between different household units and accept personal responsibility for public health guidelines.

– Coaches are responsible for ensuring social distancing is maintained between players as much as possible. This means additional spacing between players while playing catch, changing drills so that players remain spaced out, and no congregating of players while waiting to bat.

To enforce these regulations, Driskell has said there could possibly extra person in the dugout to sanitize. The conference, coaches meet today, Thursday, to discus that possibility.

“I still think there’s a number of concerns with our coaches about procedures and policies,” said Driskell. “... I want to try to get it as organized as possible that they get to coach, not always be sanitizing things. ... That saves them time, and allows them time to coach.”

Among the concerns for keeping things clean and ensuring safety, Driskell also expressed worries on cleaning balls in between or during innings and how it could effect the game.

Since cleaning often comes in the form of a liquid, it’s believed to be difficult to keep the ball dry and gripable during games. After being affected by water, the difference between a dry and wet ball is noticeable in both sports. If the ball is sanitized enough to “water log” a ball, it could lead to more balls used also.

“Those are things I need to do research on. If we sanitize every half inning, am I going to go through more baseballs in a game and a season because of that,” said Driskell

Changes to the schedules

There are several changes to Creston’s season now that it is due to start three weeks after the original “Opening Day.”

– For softball, the John Stephens Softball Classic will not be held. A staple in the season that also includes play at Southwestern Community College, it will not be made up. Baseball does not host a tournament, but will not travel to any (softball will not either).

– Scheduling will target 10 Hawkeye 10 conference games, with only one counting towards conference standings if a doubleheader is played (down from the typical 20). Conference games will be played Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with out of conference games in between. In total, the regular season will be an estimated a “14 to 16-game season.”

On making season adjustments, Driskell said he’s doing what he can to make sure the season goes on while also being respectful to the athletes.

“I want to be respectful. I want to play as many games as I can for our kids, but at the same time, I want to be respectful that they’re all in their health,” said Driskell. “... We might be able to play a little more, but for baseball you have to be wary and not over do it.”

For the News Advertiser coverage, the 2020 season changes and regulations will not hinder its coverage of Creston baseball and softball along with other area schools.

To view a full list with specifications for practice and games, visit the IHSAA website at www.iahsaa.com.