The county’s Parks and Recreation department announced Wednesday a new process for teams to return to competition.
Baseball and softball teams throughout Hillsborough County are now one step closer to game and tournament play.
The county’s Parks and Recreation Department announced Wednesday evening a new process for teams and organizations to take to get back on any county-maintained field for more than just conditioning and practice purposes. It requires a bit of work on the teams’ end, but that work can begin immediately.
Any league looking to return to play has to submit an action plan to the county Parks and Rec department via email at PRK-Fields@hillsboroughcounty.org. The plan has to cover social distancing and sanitation procedures, scheduling ideas and safety plans for everyone from the players and coaches to the fans in the stands. Department staff will review each plan and either approve it or propose changes.
The county said in a press release the decision to start the process of bringing back games and tournaments was made “after extensive consultation with local health officials, emergency managers, Parks and Recreation staff, league officials and others.”
The move comes two weeks after Plant City Little League announced the cancellation of its Fall 2020 season.
“Due to the ongoing pandemic and the rise in cases, we made a very difficult decision to cancel our fall season,” the league said in an Aug. 1 Facebook post. “As tough as this was to make, the safety of our players and their families are our number one priority. We understand this is not the news you were hoping for, as we were looking forward to seeing these kids on the field doing what they love. We appreciate your understanding. Please stay safe and we look forward to seeing everyone in Spring 2021.”
It will potentially make scheduling easier for travel leagues like Plant City-based Global Sports Alliance Baseball, which has scheduled all of its weekend tournaments for August and September outside of Hillsborough County.
In a press release sent out on Aug. 7, Plant City Parks and Recreation Department director Jack Holland said he and other Parks and Rec directors in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties had been asked to not consider competition games until later in 2020, and “probably not (in Plant City) until Oct. 1 at the earliest.” GSA’s website does list a return to the county in early October for the Backyard Brawl tournament in Plant City, which is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 3 and 4, and the league also listed plans for a Halloween tournament in Plant City at the end of the month.
The department announced last week its plan to roll out practices and games for other sports. Unless there is a spike in the percent positive rate of testing, Oct. 1 will be the first day of competitive play for youth baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse. Youth football and basketball practices can begin on that date and competitive games could begin Oct. 17. The Parks and Rec/Optimist Youth Flag Football League is tentatively scheduled to start registration in late September and begin play in October, and the department said it is “too early to make definite plans at this time, but we are getting ready to make plans if the COVID-19 situation allows it.” Youth soccer, lacrosse and football tournaments can begin Nov. 2. Adult sports games and practices are on hold until after Jan. 1, 2021.
“Yes, the high schools have set their schedules to start fall sports soon, ignoring the same medical advice we have received,” Holland said in an Aug. 21 press release. “The risk vs reward is still too great at the youth level when it comes to our youths, and this philosophy is felt region-wide around Tampa Bay. Just this week, a six-year-old Hillsborough County youth died from COVID-19. The main priority is to protect our area youth and safely put them onto the fields when the risk of the virus is minimized and the time is right.”