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Living by the new rules

Baseball, softball prepare to play with COVID guidelines Fans to be allowed at games

SOLON– There will be no handshakes after the game.
It’s one of the many changes Solon Community School District (SCSD) fans and players can expect in order to provide the safest environment possible while still playing baseball and softball in the summer of 2020.
But fans of both will be allowed to watch games as the truncated season kicks off June 15.
“We are allowing fans to attend games,” SCSD Activities Director Casey Hack confirmed. “We are encouraging social distancing and asking our fans, players, and coaches to follow these guidelines.”
Solon will charge admission for varsity games only, he added.
Both the WaMaC Conference and the SCSD have issued expectations for summer sports. Both encourage fans to bring their own chairs or stand, although bleachers will be available in Solon. Maquoketa, Marion and South Tama are not allowing bleacher usage.
Families should be at least 6 feet away from the nearest family while watching, and students should be at least 6 feet away from each other. Students will be asked to leave if they are not abiding by the social distancing guidelines, according to Solon’s rules.
Concessions will not be offered.
Spectators are encouraged to bring their own hand sanitizer. Masks are not required, but encouraged for those fans who wish to wear them. Fans are also asked to follow public health guidelines, abide by posted signs and refrain from consuming sunflower seeds, according to the WaMaC.
At games, players will spread out in the extended dugout as much as possible, foul balls will be sanitized as they are brought back to the dugout and team helmets will be sanitized between each use.
Catcher’s gear will be sanitized before it is passed between teammates and coaches will sanitize all bats, helmets and catcher’s gear before the first game,
between games and after the second game, according to the SCSD guidelines.
The new rules have been announced on social media, distributed district wide and will be sent out again before teams take the field, Hack noted.

According to Solon Baseball Head Coach Keith McSweeney, adapting practice has been different and the same in many ways.
“Baseball players are traditionally spaced out anyway, but we've certainly had to make significant adjustments,” he noted. “The state has communicated guidelines for us to follow and our job is to implement and enforce them to the best of our ability. But the challenge for us as coaches is to understand (and accept) that our players are coming from different places of perception about the virus.”
Every family is different in how they are approaching COVID-19 with their children, he said.
“However, it's vital for coaches to establish a culture of compliance to make sure that one– every student-athlete feels safe participating in our program– and two– they ARE safe.”

McSweeney and his coaching staff have maintained virtual connections with the team during the school closure.
Coaches helped players establish routines, schedules and written goals for themselves, and then followed up to check progress, McSweeney reported.
“Our varsity team read the book ‘The Champion's Mind,’ as well as some other shorter readings about leadership, handling success and failure, and the mental game,” he added. Virtual meetings were held twice a week to keep connections and monitor how players were doing.
“Obviously, it was a very unique time that none of us had experienced, and although the challenges far exceeded any benefits, our varsity team really embraced the time to focus on things we typically don't have as much time to cover in as much detail,” he said. “Our goal as individuals and as a team was to ‘win’ the shutdown period. I believe we did and we are starting from a great place as a unit.”
While there are times when coaches need to be in close contact with players to help them learn mechanical movements or playing progressions, McSweeney and his staff are trying to avoid them as much as possible.
“And when we do get closer, we make sure we pull up our mask over our nose and mouth,” he said.
He’s had to sternly remind players a couple times to space out, “but I believe they are getting the picture.”
Players have been placed in small groups of five-to-eight players for drills, he added.
“For the most part, we've been able to seamlessly make this a part of how we do things,” he reported.
The varsity baseball and softball teams both open with doubleheaders Monday, June 15, on the road at Manchester against the West Delaware Hawks, and both make their home debut Wednesday, June 17.
The baseball junior varsity squad will start things off at 5 p.m. hosting Fairfield, with a varsity game against the Trojans at 7 p.m. On the other side of Racine Avenue from the Solon Recreation and Nature Area, Center Point-Urbana will be facing the Lady Spartans in a doubleheader with a 6 p.m. start.
“We are just so excited to have a baseball season, especially for our seniors,” McSweeney said. “There are certainly greater problems in the world than us getting to play baseball, but for these kids, it's huge. We'll do our best to keep them safe until the powers that be tell us it's not safe any longer.”