As we navigate the Coronavirus pandemic we continue to rely on our State and local government and health officials to provide guidance on what youth sports, and specifically baseball, might look like in Spring. While there are still many uncertainties, we also intend to heed the advice of Little League International which has asked leagues to be as flexible as possible when planning for next season and to start preparations for a return to baseball with a focus on safety. As a result we have been working to plan for many contingencies. We will follow the state rules regarding youth sports, Hillsborough Recreation provisions, and ideas from LL International’s restart plans as they evolve.
To put us in the best spot to be able to plan for what Spring might look like, we need to understand what families and players would be interested in playing. As a result, we will be opening up registration in mid-November for all Little League levels of play from T-Ball to Majors Division, and we hope to field teams for 54/80 (ages 13-14) and Challenger. We are asking families to register and pay the normal one time registration fee.
Our hope is that by the Spring we will be able to scale to a season that includes games and competition. However in order to be able to address the many contingencies that we may face, we have currently proposed the following phases for play.
- Spring Training (February to Mid-March): This phase represents the currently permitted "camp" style youth sports programs. HLL executed a Fall Baseball program in this phase that proved successful. We think there is a high likelihood that the Spring season starts in this phase. Players will be placed onto practice teams by school for all divisions. Practices will focus on training and skill development. There will be no games or interactions between different teams. For lower division teams, this phase will not look much different than normal, with the exception of not playing other teams. For the upper division teams, we will also use this phase to evaluate and independently rate players to the extent there is an opportunity to have a draft later in the season. Please note, this may be the enduring option we are afforded during the duration of the spring season due to COVID-19.
- Hybrid Season Model (late March): If State and County guidance allows this as a possibility, there will be a try-out for all Upper Division players and a draft prior to Spring Break. This phase anticipates continued Spring Training activities with school teams up until Spring Break (week of April 5), at which time there will be a draft for the selection of Upper Division teams. If State and County guidance indicates this is a possibility, there will be a try-out for all Upper Division players and a draft prior to Spring Break. For Lower Division teams, they will stay on their School based teams and we will contemplate a schedule against other teams after Spring Break.
- Regular Season (April through early June): If State and County guidance allows this as a possibility, this phase contemplates an abbreviated season as we have played in the past with teams being able to practice and play in games against other teams. That being said, we will implement new safety protocols specific to the Coronavirus pandemic - including but not limited to dugout expansion to allow for better social distancing, no shared equipment, and limited capacity and specific areas for seating. Full statements on HLL’s COVID policy can be found here.