Summit County Softball League set to return to Silverthorne
Popular men’s, co-ed leagues didn’t operate in 2020 due to COVID-19 regulations
After a year hiatus in 2020 due to local novel coronavirus regulations, the popular Summit County Softball League is slated to begin play June 7.
Steve “Smoke” Wilkins, the league’s longtime director, said although it’s great to be able to have league play again this season, the league continues to feel the effects of the pandemic.
Most paramount, Wilkins said he is planning to host the league exclusively at the Silverthorne softball diamonds at the base of Dillon Dam this season. Wilkins said that’s because his most recent correspondence with the town of Breckenridge Recreation Department indicated players would have to wear facial coverings or masks during games.
“We didn’t consider Breck because their mandates for what was required to play didn’t fit; it wasn’t going to happen,” Wilkins said. “I wasn’t going to manage softball that requires masks when no one else in the country is having masked softball. We had gotten that information a month and a half ago, and I have not been updated to a change in that.”
Wilkins said operating out of Silverthorne this summer might be a positive because he has struggled to find umpires for games in recent weeks.
“At this point, I couldn’t take the number of teams I had two years ago anyway. I have nowhere to put them,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins said he has only one umpire on board to call games this summer. In a traditional season, he has nine umpires working games across the fields in Silverthorne and Breckenridge.
Wilkins said the Summit league isn’t the only one struggling to find umpires and said he has received calls from the Vail Recreation Department asking whether any Summit umpires would be interested in working in Eagle County, as well.
“Most of these umpires have left the county or developed other ways of filling their summers,” Wilkins said. “We’re looking into alternate ways of officiating games, like self-umpiring, that sort of thing. There’s nobody out there who wants to work now. Getting people to work for companies right now is very difficult because they can go on unemployment or government assistance to stay home.”
Wilkins said figuring out how the league will officiate games — maybe even having teams call their own games — is the biggest challenge.
“Each team would provide a person to stand behind the plate and say someone’s safe or out, something like that,” Wilkins said. “Everyone wants to play. I wouldn’t hold that up if we didn’t have enough umpires.”
Wilkins said team slots have filled up faster for the co-ed league than the men’s league. The slow enrollment has Wilkins wondering how many traditional players might have left the county during the pandemic, but he hopes to fill all 16 men’s and co-ed team slots by a managers meeting from 6-7 p.m. June 2 at the fields in Silverthorne.
“I think that the core softball players in Summit County will still play,” league treasurer Kim Nix said. “With the housing problem and lack of workers, I think it will be more longtime locals. We’re not going to see those new teams of maybe a lot of younger kids who move to town and throw a team together. The workforce is definitely less, and that means less players.”
Wilkins said there is still uncertainty about how many games will be played on each league night due to the lack of umpires and also lack of lighting at the fields in Silverthorne. Traditionally, Breckenridge was a location where the league could play past dusk thanks to outdoor lighting.
“Really, at the end of the day, we are just trying to get something going to keep softball alive and build for next year on a normal basis,” Wilkins said. “People just want to get out and play. These people have been cooped up for a long time, and I think a lot of people are just over it.”
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