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Almost showtime: Moose Jaw Minor Girls fastball set to begin play next week

Practices underway as sport set to make return after delay due to COVID-19 pandemic
The crack of the bat. The snap of the glove. The hiss of disinfectant spray.

One of these things is not like the other, but all will be common at Optimist Park beginning next week when Moose Jaw and District Minor Girls Fastball kicks off their new season.

Members of three Moose Jaw Ice select teams were out practicing on Thursday night at the local complex, gearing up for what will be a short, but most welcome campaign.

“They’re really eager,” said commissioner Shawn Okerstrom. “Usually we get started back in February or March and have two or three months before we start playing, where we only had two weeks this time, but we’re all looking forward to getting back out there and playing games.”

Things were starting to gear up in early April with registration and planning being put in place for the coming campaign when the COVID-19 pandemic brought literally everything to a screeching halt.

But as Saskatchewan recovered and the Re-Open plan reached it’s final phase in order to let sports return to action, leagues all over the province began to ramp up. Moose Jaw is no exception – games begin early next week, after a flurry of activity that included finalizing registration, drawing teams and putting together a schedule.

Things won’t be quite the same when the games do start, though – and it could have turned into almost a completely different sport had things not relaxed as quickly as they did.

“There are obviously some things we have to implement and some restrictions where catchers and umps can be, that sort of thing, some procedures we have to implement with wiping down equipment, but it could be a lot worse,” Okerstrom said. “Their first crack at what we were going to have to do was pretty strict.”

“Strict” as in no tags at bases, commitment and safe lines, no stealing home, no warm-ups and on and on. Fortunately that’s been pared down to a handful of smaller but vital changes.

Catchers have to be two metres behind the plate and umpires two metres back from there, or they can call the game from behind the pitcher. Each team will have a ‘sanitation champion’ in charge of disinfecting bats and equipment, and social distancing is to be used as much as practically possible -- to the point that players can't stay in the dugout unless they can maintain six feet of separation.

A few extra chores, for sure, but all worth it if it means teams can get back playing the game they love.

The Ice programs received good news recently from Softball Sask, where it’s expected they’ll be allowed to play teams from Regina. Everything still has to be absolutely finalized, but it’s possible regular doubleheaders featuring the representative teams will be common at Optimist Park.

As for house league play, registration numbers took a bit of a hit from the combination of summer holidays, farming and COVID-19 concerns, but just under 200 players will take the field across the seven age divisions. Teams in the oldest U19 age class will see action in the Moose Jaw Senior Ladies Fastball League.

For more information and schedules, be sure to keep an eye on the Moose Jaw and District Minor Girls Fastball Facebook page and website.