Youth sports return to the field
Nothing is more normal in spring than the sight of a T-ball player preoccupied with a grasshopper in right field, parents shouting frenzied instructions to a clump of children on from the side of a soccer pitch or the solid thump of a softball on an aluminum bat.
None of that was possible last year due to COVID-19, but youth sports in Prince Edward County have returned to make the spring of 2021 feel a little more natural.
“We are pretty much back to normal,” Danielle Boehmer, the secretary for the Prince Edward- Farmville Youth Sports Association (PEFYA), said. “We’re operating safely, obviously, and under mask mandates and things like that. We are just trying to make sure our fans stay at an appropriate distance.”
So far, only one player has tested positive during the season. The player and family were out of action during the quarantine period.
“We just ask for honesty and transparency during those types of situations,” Boehmer said. “That was the only one, and it was way back in March. We have been fortunate.”
Boehmer said the players, coaches and umpires in the association’s baseball, softball and soccer leagues do not have to wear masks, but fans need to stay a safe distance apart or wear masks when sitting in the bleachers at the softball and baseball games.
Huddles look different. Hands are not all put into a pile together before breaking the huddle. Prince Edward has fewer counties to play for competition. The PEFYA teams have fewer teams in their leagues, and participation is down, but Boehmer said those who have returned to the field have been having a good time.
“The kids are ecstatic to be back on the field,” she said.
Overall, baseball participation is down 28% in 2019. Softball maintained an even level to the prior year. Soccer saw a drop of 30% from its 2019 levels.
The most registrants signed up for PEFYA’s T-ball program.
“A lot of people want their younger ones busy with things,” Boehmer said. There are three T-ball teams. Coach pitch, Minors and Majors each have two teams. Boehmer attributes the fact that not everyone has been fully vaccinated yet to the drop in participation.
With the return of play comes the smells and tastes associated with a day at the ballfield.
“People are just so glad to have their cheese fries and their hot dog and just sit and watch a ball game,” Boehmer said of the organization’s biggest fundraiser.
In addition to the regular season, PEFYA is hosting the Minor League District 5 Dixie League Tournament June 25 in baseball and the District Tournament for the Ponytails and Darlings June 25 as well.
“It’s going to bring a lot of people into our area and to our restaurants,” Boehmer said.