Softball players from the area returned to action this month with their various travel ball teams, although the games were run a bit differently because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Players still congregated in their respective dugouts. But each team got its own set of softballs to use while pitching. And foes did not high-five each other at game’s end.
The Roanoke-based Virginia Scrappers’ 18-and-under showcase team has played in two tournaments this month — one at Milligan College in Tennessee two weekends ago and one in Rock Hill, South Carolina, last weekend.
“In between games, the [tournament] people would spray down the dugouts with rubbing alcohol,” said Scrappers player Katie Currin, a recent Blacksburg High School graduate and a Christopher Newport recruit.
“We spray the kids’ hands down with sanitizer after every game,” said Scrappers coach Scott Cisco, who is also the Staunton River High School coach.
Virginia signee Abby Weaver, a recent Cave Spring graduate, played with her Williamsburg Starz team at a tournament in Richmond two weekends ago.
“Each team got their own bucket of balls,” Weaver said. “So you won’t touch the other team’s ball they play defense with.”
That was also the case in the Scrappers’ tournaments. The Scrappers got their own set of softballs to use when it was their turn to pitch and be out in the field, so that only their own players were throwing that softball to each other and handling it during the tournament.
The VHSL had canceled the 2020 high school spring sports season because of the pandemic, so players were grateful to finally play in games.
“I was definitely excited to be able to play, after it had been so long,” Currin said.
“I was exhausted, but it was amazing,” Weaver said.
When it was the Scrappers’ turn at bat in games, players still sat in the dugout.
“It was hard to social distance in the dugout,” Currin said. “We kind of tried to not use the same water bottles, and there was no team cooler. But we couldn’t really stay 6 feet apart within the dugout.”
The Williamsburg Starz players also sat with each other in the dugout at their tournament in Richmond.
“We were very cautious about our drinks being in different places,” Weaver said. “But we were all in the dugout high-fiving and stuff.”
James Madison signee and recent Lord Botetourt graduate Meredith Wells played with her Richmond-based Hanover Lady Hornets team in a scrimmage in Richmond two weekends ago.
“We stayed as far apart as we could [in the dugout],” said Wells, whose team will play in a Florida tournament this weekend. “It was a fairly large dugout. We weren’t on top of each other.
“We took all the precautions [in the scrimmage] that we are told, and then afterwards we definitely washed our hands and took showers and made sure all the equipment was clean. We didn’t share anything — we used our own gloves and helmets.”
The usual contact between teams during the games was allowed, such as sliding into home plate.
The Scrappers kept COVID-19 in mind when gathering on the mound to talk defensive strategy.
“When we have our huddles, we kind of keep it spread out,” Cisco said.
Social distancing affected the customary postgame acts of sportsmanship. Players did not high-five opponents or shake hands with them.
“Down in [Tennessee], … they bumped elbows,” Cisco said. “[Last] weekend we just kind of threw our hand up and waved and said, ‘Good game.’ ”
Fans were also asked to practice social distancing.
“The fans are supposed to try and stay 6 feet apart,” Currin said.
Currin kept COVID-19 in mind during the tournaments.
“There are some grandparents that went to the tournaments, and a lot of the umpires are older,” she said. “So I tried to be as aware as possible.
“My concern comes from me getting it and not knowing I have it and giving it to someone else. … My worries would be my parents and my teammates’ parents. My concern wasn’t really for my own health.”
The Moyer Sports Complex in Salem will get its first crack at hosting a tournament this summer when USA Softball holds a 48-team tournament July 4-5. Other games in that tournament will be held at the Salem Civic Center fields and in Bedford.
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