Coronavirus pandemic benches Little League season

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Coronavirus has put a stop to another yearly tradition: Little League Baseball.

“The Little League season is over for the spring. There won’t be any way to come back from that,” said Brenda Hastings, president of Grand Rapids-based Northern Little League.

Kids play Little League baseball. (File)

Usually, about 300 kids come out to the fields at Riverside Park for the program’s season, which starts in April and lasts through mid-June. A small army of volunteers made up of parents and fans maintain the fields, coach and run the concessions.

“For the most part, people knew it was coming, just hopeful that it wouldn’t come to that,” Hastings said Wednesday. “It was a tough, tough decision to finally make. We just kept kicking it around. We don’t want to take that away from the kids.”

Northern Little League was started in 1953 by businessman and devoted baseball enthusiast Bob Sullivan.

But as COVID-19 prompted stay-at-home orders and social distancing mandates, the idea of a 67th season became an impossibility.

“It was a heartbreaker for sure to cancel the season,” Hastings said.

Even as the state started loosening some restrictions, there was no way the game could be played.

“When are we actually allowed to have groups of 30 or more?” Hastings wondered. “A team is 10 to 12 kids plus parents. Now I got two teams on a field, plus umpires and fans.”

“How do you stay 6 feet away from somebody who’s on first base?” she continued, listing the obstacles to safety. “How do you keep kids 6 feet apart in a dugout and keep them from sharing baseball helmets and gloves?”

Hastings is still hoping that fall ball around Labor Day can happen and maybe even a late summer tournament, Rivalry on the River, that is critical to their fundraising.

The Little League World Series was also canceled this year, as is Georgetown Little League in Ottawa County.

While Hastings said she worries about the financial impact of the cancellations and whether kids will find another activity, she believes baseball will be back.

Northern Little League will be refunding fees paid by the players’ parents.

It is unlikely that any summer sports will be played this year but you should check with your local organization to be sure.