So we’ve had our first full week of high school sports in Iowa since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
As the only state that sanctions baseball and softball as summer activities, we get the privilege and responsibility of being the first in the nation to attempt a return.
Responsibility being a key word there. When the state government, along with the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, agreed to let us come back, there were some conditions attached. In fact, there were a lot of new rules and regulations that needed to be followed for this to be successful.
Even if we are following the rules, there are sure to be some positive tests involving teams, players coaches and fans. The most obvious examples locally are the baseball team at Gehlen Catholic and the softball team at MMCRU being shut down for a couple of weeks after a positive test. There also have been individuals from the George-Little Rock/Central Lyon softball team who were affected, but in that case it was just those individuals and not the whole team that got put on quarantine.
How did that happen? I don’t have firsthand knowledge of the situation, so I can’t tell you that.
All I can do here is give you an idea of what I’ve seen and how I think we’re doing in terms of following the new rules.
Part of those new rules are that I as a media member can’t be at practice, so I haven’t been able to observe that, but it appears coaches and players are adjusting well to the new rules regarding sanitation and social distancing. I’ve heard a lot of talk about how they use player pods, splitting the team into several smaller groups, for drill work. I’ve heard coaches talk about how cleanup takes a little longer, but they don’t seem to mind.
During the games, the players and coaches seem to be very aware of the rules. I would have guessed I’d see more players randomly spitting or someone helping out the other team by picking up a ball when only the defensive team can do that. I have not seen any of that for the most part. Players and coaches even line up differently now for the national anthem, making sure they respect social distancing. Really, other than still seeing a few more high-fives and fist bumps than what there should be, they’ve been great. I’d give players and coaches an A-minus or maybe a B-plus.
Fans are a slightly different story. I thought it would be worse, but it’s still not as good as it could be. The bleachers haven’t been as tightly packed as they were back in the pre-virus times, but I’m pretty sure most of the groupings aren’t six feet apart either. I’ve been encouraged by the number of people who have brought their own chairs and sat along the outfield fence now that most schools are leaving that area open. I’m also discouraged that a good number of those with lawn chairs insist on plopping them down right in the same spot they always sit no matter how close that might be to another person that has already beaten them to the spot.
They are lawn chairs people. They are built to be mobile. Place them a proper distance away from others, and if you don’t like the view from there, then pick them up and move them to a different spot while still keeping your distance. This isn’t hard.
I’ve heard from other sports writers that the situation is different in other parts of the state where it seems like the fans aren’t even trying the social distancing thing at all and have just went back to whatever they normally did. So at least what I’ve seen isn’t that bad, but still I’m giving the fans a C-minus. And that’s probably being a little generous.
We’ve only got a couple of weeks left and we’re into the postseason already. Hopefully, by next summer they will find a cure for the virus and we can go back to enjoying the games exactly the way we used to. Until then, let’s try to be more aware of the rules and follow them as well as we can so the kids can stay on the field.