Babe Ruth League opens season Friday night with a few twists

Wednesday, May 27, 2020
The Jonathan D. Hollingsworth Memorial Babe Ruth League Park in Lewisburg won’t be empty much longer as the 2020 season commences Friday night at 6 p.m. with a 16-18 year-old division doubleheader
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

It’s been 11 weeks since the last live sporting event in Marshall County, but that is going to change Friday night when the Marshall County Babe Ruth League opens play at the Jonathan D. Hollingsworth Memorial Field in Lewisburg.

“I’m wound up, I’ve been on the phone everyday talking to people and making sure everything is alright,” former Marshall County League Babe Ruth president and current league executive Ken Demastus said. “And David Crane (current Babe Ruth League president) has really done a great job.”

“We have been working together on this to try to make this happen and we have been constantly talking to people, our sponsors have been great, we have been really worried about the way our economy is and what is going on and as far as I know, nobody has backed out.”

There will be no opening ceremonies due to COVID-19 restrictions set forth by the Board of Directors of the Babe Ruth League at the National Babe Ruth League headquarters in Trenton, New Jersey.

Most of those guidelines are at the bottom of this article.

There will be the National Anthem every night with players six feet apart and two windows open at the concession stand and fans will allowed up on the hill behind the outfield to watch outside or in their vehicles.

The regular season will last five weeks with doubleheaders Monday thru Friday before a regularly scheduled slate of postseason tournaments, including district and possible region tournaments.

“Everybody is a little bit depressed with the same old mess, you can’t watch baseball on TV because everything is all re-runs,” Demastus said. “Just the fact that you can go watch a ballgame that you know somebody on one of these times, whether it be the 13 to 15’s or the older kids is really exciting.”

“I’m hoping we can get people involved back in Babe Ruth and I really think they will be excited knowing something else is happening rather than just staying home.”

Last year’s 14-year old batting champion Daniel Sellars is entering his final year of Babe Ruth League play this season.

There will be seven teams in the league this season with the four longtime stalwart sponsors returning in the defending champion Elks Lodge # 1990, Marshall Medical Center, A-Plus Collision Center, and Nichirin that comprises the 13-15 year-old division that will play Monday thru Thursday.

Each team will have 11 to 12 players.

The 13-15 year-old division will consist of players from Marshall County and after much discussion and a few years of trying, other players sanctioned by the Babe Ruth League from Maury County will come to compete in Lewisburg.

“Without this happening, many of our kids would not be playing any baseball at all this summer and we want you guys to know we are grateful and we look forward to being one league, regardless of where we live,” longtime Maury County baseball advocate Mike Fagan said. “For those of you from Maury County that don’t know this, Marshall County has been a dominating force in baseball for many decades with championships too many to name.”

The two entities have been in touch over the last several years, but just could not get it done until now and the decision will provide enough players to fill all four teams and make for some exciting play this summer for fans from both counties.

“On behalf of Maury County parents, players and coaches again, thank you so much,” Fagan said. “It's all about the kids and I know they will enjoy the experience.”

The first game of the 13-15 year old division will be played under a two-hour time limit with the first contest beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the second at 7:30.

In another new and exciting twist, there will also be three 16-18 year-old teams that will play a round robin slate of Friday night doubleheaders.

The games will have a two-hour time limit with the first game of the twin bill starting at 6 p.m.

Spence Oliver will be back in action Friday night in the 16-18 year-old division of the Marshall County Babe Ruth League.

Some of the local players slated to compete in the 16-18 year-old division are Walker Whaley, Bryson Whaley, Naomi Hopper, Luke Terry, Colton Barber, Thomas J. Beardsley, Spence Oliver, Conner Lewis, Tilden Jackson, Zack Graves, Caleb McElhaney, Dawson Brumit, and Kel Greer.

The three Walker brothers (John, Will and Sam) will sponsor a team, along with Flat Rock Farms.

Bryson Whaley will also be back on the Babe Ruth League diamond Friday night in the 16-18 year-old division.

“This going to be a lot of fun,” said Demastus, who will back in the coaching box for the 16-18 year-old division. “These are all kids I have coached before that we have took to state tournaments and southeast region tournaments, they have been itching to do something and it doesn’t take much for me to get started on something.”

The other 16-18 year-old team will be from Maury County.

In a third twist, two 16-18 year-old teams from Cookeville are also playing this season and there are tentative plans for the two leagues to meet at Cookeville later in the summer.

Naomi Hopper will be joining the guys for some Babe Ruth League action, playing in the 16-18 year-old division.

“I would love to get all these kids to travel to Cookeville and have a big weekend bash and go play their kids and get one winner in the end of all this.”

The Marshall County Babe Ruth league hosted the Southeast Region Tournament last year and will host the 15 year-old state tournament in July.

“We are planning on a 15 year-old state tournament at our park in July and we will put an All-Star team together with 16-to-18’s and travel with them too,” Demastus said.

According to the Babe Ruth League website, the normal Southeast Region Tournaments have been cancelled, but some regional sponsored events could be scheduled in the fall under different formats.

The World Series or national BRL events may be possible with details announced later in the summer after a review of the progress being made in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Demastus was asked what happens if someone in the league tests positive for COVID-19 during the season and he said, “We will fall back to what the protocol is from Babe Ruth, Lewisburg, and Marshall County to help us out. The biggest thing is to protect the kids, but we have to make sure we go by the guidelines set forth by the city, the county, and the state, so we have really, really, really watched what we have done.”

Some of the requirements for local league programs to resume play:

1. All local & state health official guidelines must be followed for any activity to take place.

2. No handshaking/celebrations: Players and coaches should refrain from handshakes, high fives, fist/elbow bumps, chest bumps, group celebrations, etc.

3. Only two (2) players MAXIMUM in the dugout at one time, while also following 6’ social distancing guidelines at all times. Remaining players & coaches will be positioned down the left & right field lines (off playing field & outside of fence – if possible) away from throws that might come to 1st and 3rd base. Players will be seated or stand no less than 6’ apart and must have at least one (1) Coach to watch over players in this area at all times.

4. Players should limit any sharing of playing equipment, bats, gloves, fielder’s mask, catcher’s gear, helmets, water bottles etc. Baseballs and Softballs should be cleaned whenever possible and an adequate supply should be on hand.

5. All participants should wear some type of face covering while at the park, and especially while at the games. For example, umpires, players, coaches, scorekeepers, etc. If a player chooses to wear additional PPE, they may do so as long as it does not compromise the safety of other players.

6. Cleaning supplies, as well as hand sanitizer, should be available in the dugout area. Also, hand sanitizer stations should be set up in locations around the park.

7. Parents should be advised to have backup supplies in the player’s equipment bag for use when needed and their own marked water bottle or sports drink. No team or dugout coolers are permitted. 8. Review cleaning and sanitation of common areas like dugouts, bathrooms, concession stands or similar areas between games or activities. Teams should be advised to clean out and wipe down dugout or other field areas that they were in prior to leaving the playing field.

9. Limit the number of fans to one (1) spectator per player attending games in the park.

10. Review game schedules to allow for fields to not all be in use at the same time if they are in close distance to one another. Allow for greater gaps in between games to help limit the number of people at the park at one time. For complexes with more than one field, they should look to reduce the amount of games or activities to half of the normal scheduling to allow for greater space in the park

11. Fans attending games should follow 6’ social distancing guidelines at all times.

12. Suggest that any player, or person not feeling well, should not attend games or practices.

13. Review new procedures with all Team Managers prior to the first activity or game at the park.

14. Managers & Coaches should help to educate players on the hygiene/handwashing/touching of the face suggested guidelines.

15. Any team or player awards are presented wrapped up and given to the Team Manager or team point person. There should not be any on field presentations.

16. Provide proper signage throughout the park on guidelines provided by local and state health officials. Contact Babe Ruth League HQ’s for help in having signs made at a reduced cost.

17. Pregame conference will be limited to one (1) Coach per team and one (1) Umpire. Social distancing of 6’ is required.

18. The use of candy, chewing gum and/or sunflower seeds is not permitted by players, coaches, umpires or spectators.

19. Batting lineup changes should be limited to communicating from a distance that maintains the 6’ social distancing guidelines at all times.

20. Have each team keep track and report all of the players, coaches, umpires or spectator’s names that are at the park for each game.

21. These guidelines are to enhance your local & state health guidelines should those guidelines be at a lower standard, or not as detailed for the sports of Baseball & Softball.

Information can be found at baberuthleague.org and click on Babe Ruth League Coronavirus Update.