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Ode to Joy: Listen to tune of kids playing ball

Will we see youngsters on baseball diamonds this summer?

It’s possible.

Little League International recently posted protocols designed to get kids playing again while keeping youths and coaches safe from the COVID-19 threat.

No handshakes, high-fives or fist bumps, according to the protocols.

No group celebrations.

No gum chewing, no spitting, no concession sales.

But plenty of social distancing, masks and personal equipment for each player.

“We understand there is going to be apprehension on the part of parents,” said Stephen Keener, Little League president and CEO, during a recent virtual roundtable on youth sports.

He was accompanied by Stanford University School of Medicine professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and former Olympic softball gold medalist Jennie Finch, among others.

Dr. Bhattacharya said he believes youth sports — particularly baseball and softball — is the best place to restart organized athletics, as long as precautions are followed.

“Baseball and softball are among the top sports that we can impose these sorts of norms that we’ve come to expect from COVID,” he said.

Finch agreed, saying her children returned to practice in Louisiana several weeks ago with measures such as spacing out bags and having their own hand sanitizer.

Her 8-year-old counted down the minutes to practice and told her it was the “best day of his life.”

Such joy!

We would like to see the youngsters of north central Pennsylvania also have the chance to experience the thrill of getting together with their team for baseball practice this summer, maybe even some games.

Of course, besides committing to and respecting the safety protocol, this will require the approval of local municipal and school officials, depending on where the field is located. Some leagues are on municipal land and some on school grounds, and leagues must follow what their municipality or school district dictates.

The Sun-Gazette sampled a few local leagues about their plans and found that leagues may not have any organized practices until the area moves into the green phase of the state’s coronavirus plan for reopening. Furthermore, games may not be scheduled until after at least two weeks of practice.

The important thing to remember is that the invitation for the youths of our communities to play ball may not be that far off.

And while there will not be a global tournament and grand championship game this year, the local league games will be special, even if just for the sound of the bat hitting the ball, the fans cheering and maybe even some laughter, along with plenty of good sportsmanship.

We can even envision a lot of smiles hiding behind cloth masks before summer is out.

Isn’t that really what it’s all about, after all?

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