PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) – Even thought Governor Ron DeSantis addressed professional sports on Wednesday, he didn’t give too much information on when youth sports may start up again.
However, local coaches and tournament directors are hopeful that they will be able to play this summer.
One of the biggest summer baseball tournaments in the Panhandle is the Grand Slam World Series. Tournament CEO Larry Thompson said it’s full-steam ahead for them and they are planning on starting the four weeks of tournaments on June 15 as planned.
Thompson said that they have had some teams drop out due to financial hardship brought on by the pandemic.
“That’s our biggest challenge as far as the teams are concerned is making it so they are not from a financial standpoint out a whole lot,” Thompson said.
Thompson said they are waiting on the green light from local officials and the state, but are ready to go for the summer. They also will introduce some safety precautions to the tournaments this year in an effort to keep the athletes and coaches safe.
“We have some things that we are gonna do from a baseball standpoint like putting the umpire on the pitchers mound instead of behind home plate, not doing a pre-game home plate meeting, not doing a post-game handshake, couple of things like that, sanitizing baseballs between innings, but most everything else, we are going to follow the lead of what the TDC and the parks tell us we need to do,” Thompson said.
For local travel ball team coaches like Rick Green, he’s taking it day by day on whether or not he will be bringing his softball team to certain summer tournaments. A tournament director in Alabama reached out to him recently to ask if he was still planning on coming.
“They said ‘Coach are you still planning on coming?’ I said ‘well, I don’t know.’ I said ‘this is a June tournament and we’re not coming without practicing,'” Green said.
Coaches and tournament directors are hopeful that summer ball will still happen as athletes have been itching to get back out on the field.
“This is the prime time of the year for playing baseball,” Thompson said. “I think just getting out, having it as a distraction, doing things as a family, recreation, exercise all those things work hand in hand. That’s why people are chomping at the bits to get out and get on the ball field.”
Governor DeSantis said they are assessing a way to move forward with youth sports.