With COVID-19 rule changes, Summit softball adult league unlikely to play this summer
League director says gameplay would be altered too much
BRECKENRIDGE — In a more perfect world, Steve “Smoke” Wilkins would be able to operate and play in the Summit County softball adult leagues he’s directed for two decades. But amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, it seems Wilkins won’t run the popular leagues this summer due to what he said are mandated COVID-19 rules and regulations that would change game play too much.
“I personally would go out and play softball right now with no restrictions,” Wilkins said. “I don’t see the point of having a sport with these types of restrictions. These are not minor things; they are major things.
“It’s a lot of work to get rules in place,” he continued. “It could take six weeks to get rules together, get teams signed up, collect fees, make schedules. It’s definitely late in the ballgame.”
Wilkins said Wednesday, July 1, that he doesn’t plan to operate the league this summer as long as rule changes imposed by recreation departments and county health offices alter the nature of the game significantly.
Wilkins said the town of Breckenridge reached out to him within the past couple of weeks about discussing the possibility of restarting the league for summer with COVID-19 precautions in place. He said he first reached out to them in April.
Breckenridge Recreation Director Scott Reid said last month that with all the novel coronavirus precautions the rec department was considering, the restart of adult recreation leagues — like softball — was not as high of a priority as other programming and services. Those included the rec department’s camps for children and opening up facilities like the Breckenridge Recreation Center and Stephen C. West Ice Arena, Reid said.
Town of Breckenridge Special Events Coordinator Vince Hutton said Wednesday that in order for the town to rent the fields adjacent to the Breck Rec Center to a league director like Wilkins, league directors would have to devise and present a safety plan following health guidelines.
Wilkins said he has not received any correspondence regarding using the town of Silverthorne diamonds beneath the Dillon Reservoir dam.
In considering what the softball league could look like, both Hutton and Wilkins looked at the Vail Recreation District’s adult softball league protocol. In that document obtained by Hutton, there are physically distanced white bases for the defensive team and orange bases for the offensive team. Wilkins said game play would have to be force outs at at all defensive bases, with no tagging of players.
Other rule changes include: players not being able to advance on any fly ball out and any runner caught in a rundown becoming an out; no sunflower seeds, chewing tobacco, spitting, hand-shakes or high-fiving; the catcher setting up a minimum of 6 feet behind the batter and letting the ball touch the ground before being able to retrieve it; and the umpire being stationed at an angle with a minimum 6 feet from the batter and catcher.
“It would definitely change the rules of softball,” Hutton said.
Despite the league likely not operating this summer, Wilkins said there is a demand for softball. He points to last year when he had nearly 750 people play in leagues across the diamonds in Breckenridge and Silverthorne. He knows numbers likely wouldn’t be that high this summer amid the pandemic because people who played last year might have lost their jobs and relocated.
“I’ve heard of so many people move away ’cause of this,” Wilkins said.
He said some people — including himself — are in favor of returning to play with minimal COVID-19 rule changes while others do not want to play because of their own health concerns. But, he said, he’s gotten enough calls, texts and emails in recent weeks to know there is enough demand to operate the league this summer.
“And I just don’t see a plan of action to play based on the restrictions provided,” Wilkins said. “The game would have to be changed so much, so drastically. I for one wouldn’t have enjoyment. I don’t see how others would enjoy it.”
If the league doesn’t happen this summer, Wilkins said it would be the first time in his 20 years as director it wouldn’t take place. The only other year the league was in danger was 2004 due to drought concerns, he said.
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