Montreal

Here's what it took to get Quebec kids back on the baseball diamond this summer

Baseball participation is down across the province, but the drop is not as big as expected.

Teams lost about half the season, but parents, coaches and players are ready to make the most of what's left

Youth baseball is back but with new rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (CBC)

Baseball Quebec says the number of registered players in the province is down from last year, but it's not nearly as big a drop as the organization had feared.

Robert Brousseau, director of operations for Baseball Quebec, says they were expecting the pandemic to cause a drop in enrolment of at least 40 per cent from the 33,000 players they had in 2019.

But the latest numbers show the drop was more modest.

"It was a great surprise," Brousseau said. "Local associations had a lot of challenges to overcome."

As of the start of August, Baseball Quebec says it has approximately 26,000 players registered. That's nearly an 80 per cent retention rate from last season.

Brousseau says volunteers made the difference and he thanks parents for stepping up to help implement all the new COVID-19 protocols that are now necessary to play the sport safely.

Currently no COVID-19 outbreaks have been linked to youth baseball games in the province.

Baseball 'still feels like baseball'

N.D.G. baseball president Ray Callari says two to three additional volunteers are required per team per game in order to adhere to the new COVID protocols.

The responsibility for compliance often falls onto coaches like Steve Amato, the manager of the N.D.G. Jr. Lynx.

"I have a good bunch of guys so we all work well together, so that really helps when it comes to sanitation and taking care of everything," Amato said.

Most new rules are relatively easy to implement.

For example, a spray of sanitizer has replaced the high five coming in and out of the dugout between innings.

The umpire is now behind the mound instead of behind the plate and each team has to swap out its own baseballs when they take the field, so there's no cross contamination with the other team.

Lastly, the long-standing tradition of spitting sunflower seed shells is now verboten.

Meanwhile, other behaviours are harder to rein in, such as celebrating after a dramatic win.

"We have to be more separated and we can't really celebrate when we score a run or anything because we can't touch each other," said Jr. Lynx catcher Jamie Flavell.

"It still feels like baseball. We can't chew sunflower seeds or chew gum so that kinda sucks, but it's fun."

Jamie Flavell, catcher for the Jr. Lynx, says the new rules took some getting used to but it still feels like baseball. (CBC)

Parents say the extra work is worth it

Brenda Gallant says allowing her kids to come back to the diamond was something she thought long and hard about, but in the end she believes letting the kids play was the right decision.

"It's amazing. It's so great to see them back as children, playing and doing what they're supposed to do and not worrying about all of the other real-life things that are happening."

She says she feels lucky that enough parents stepped up to help make the season happen for the N.D.G. Lynx because she knows some other teams in the province didn't get the same help and weren't able to field all their teams.

Gallant believes that playing under these new conditions is a valuable learning experience since physical distancing might be something we have to live with for an indefinite period.

"As parents we are well aware of the problems that could occur. So we're trying to give them a little bit of balance and we're educating them at the same time," Gallant said.

Baseball teams lost about half of their season due to the pandemic but parents, coaches and players alike are ready to make the most of what they have left.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now