Youth softball and baseball leagues are teeing up to play ball.
This week’s drop in Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19 case rate to 16.9 per 100,000 residents has local youth organizations ramping up their leagues for Opening Day.
The Goleta Valley South and Dos Pueblos Little leagues, as well as the Santa Barbara Pony League, have already completed the signups for their spring baseball seasons, with only wait-list registration now being conducted.
The Goleta Valley Girls Softball Association, meanwhile, expects to conclude its own online signups (at GVGSA.org) next week.
Guidelines released Friday by the California Department of Public Health have stirred optimism that the leagues, which were all forced to suspend activities last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be able to play ball in the coming weeks.
“We are confident that we will begin games in mid to late March, or after spring break,” GVGSA president Julie Hastings said. “Our COVID plan already implements the requirements outlined by the State of California, and we were successful in executing a fun and effective clinic during the fall-winter season.
“Softball is considered a moderate contact sport and falls within the red tier. We will monitor the numbers closely but are encouraged about the possibility of having games again soon.”
The league’s COVID protocol includes social distancing, mask wearing for everyone except when players are exerting themselves, and designated cohorts.
“GVGSA is confident we can support a safe, fun, and competitive environment where youth athletes will thrive being able to connect with their peers and play a game they all love,” Hastings said.
The league sponsors divisions for 6-and-under, 8U, 10U, 12U, and 14U. Team formation begins next week, with “Spaces limited in order for GVGSA to adhere to COVID guidelines,” Hastings said.
The DP Little League expects to announce teams and cohorts on March 8, start practices on March 15, and play games “in a modified matter, per public health department guidelines.”
No player evaluations will be conducted, and “Santa Barbara and Goleta elementary school boundaries will be heavily taken into account when forming teams,” according to a DPLL statement. Teams will be divided into cohorts of up to six players and one coach.
DPLL is also planning no Opening Day Ceremonies or concessions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
GVSLL, however, does plan to hold player evaluations and a draft. It expects its season to run until late May.