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Local governments have a say over field usage

Local Little Leagues are hoping to get back on the fields soon to play baseball and softball. While Little League International recently published guidelines on safe resumption of play, leagues cannot begin playing immediately.

Game resumption is ultimately dependent on Gov. Tom Wolf’s plans to move counties into the green reopening phase. Lycoming County moves to the green phase Friday, joining Tioga, Sullivan, Clinton and Bradford Counties which were moved to the green phase last week. But even once counties move to the green phase, local governments which own the fields will also have to give their approval to begin play.

For instance, Loyalsock Township owns the fields at Bruce Henry Park and James Short Park. The City of Williamsport owns the fields at Brandon Park where Williamsport Area Little League plays. South Williamsport’s complex below the Little League World Series complex is also owned by the borough.

“Because we do not own our fields, we would need the city and township’s permission prior to playing,” WALL president Ron Diemer said. “We have been able to perform field maintenance work as long as we followed the state health guidelines, but there is a lot to do to be prepared for game play.”

It’s new territory for many league presidents. They’e preparing to start games and provide adequate practices in a safe manor. Little League International said all leagues must have two weeks of practice before games can begin.

Loyalsock Little League president Vicky Kiehl has been in talks over the past several months with Loyalsock Township supervisor Marc Sortman and the Loyalsock recreation department’s Shannon Lukowski.

“They have allowed us on the fields for maintenance. When Lycoming County moved to the yellow phase, the township permitted us to schedule field days as long as participants followed social distancing guidelines,” Diehl said. “Parents and their children can obviously use the fields whenever they want if they are in a public park, but we cannot have any organized league practices until we move to the green phase.”

Friday is when leagues in the county are planning on moving forward for practices.

“We had one field day for junior field practicing social distancing with masks,” Kiehl said. “We hope to have another for our softball and baseball major and minor fields over the next week or so.

“We are chartered by Little League International, so their guidelines state we need to follow state and local rules. Some of District 12’s leagues are on municipal land and some on school grounds. They must follow what their municipality or school district dictates.”

The Babe Ruth League is in the same situation as Little League. On May 1, Wolf announced local leagues couldn’t start until counties go green, which included organized practices.

For West End Babe Ruth, the league is hoping to start a season when restrictions allow it to do so safely.

“Our goal is to have a regular season that proceeds into tournament play if Babe Ruth does not cancel tournaments this year,” West End president Jim Winder said in a statement on the league’s website. “If there is no tournament play, we will schedule games into July and beyond. Our goal will be to play 12 or more regular season games.”

Much like local Little Leagues needed their local government approval, West End needed to get approval for limited use of Winder Field through the Old Lycoming Township Supervisors.

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