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Little League season on hold in province, but hope remains

Saskatchewan aiming to see baseball at some point in spite of regional tournament and World Series cancellations
All Stars North Regina final5
The Moose Jaw Little League All-Stars celebrate their Prairie Regional championship last season.
It was right around this time last year the Moose Jaw Major AAA Miller Express realized they might have something special on their hands.

Plowing through the North Regina Little League schedule like they were an age group higher than their opponents, they’d cruise through the regular season on their way to easily winning that title.

The rest of their story is well-documented; that crew would become the Moose Jaw Little League All-Stars, who would dominate the Prairie Regional tournament and go on to captivate the city with their run at the Little League Canadian Championship.

Sadly, there’s no chance of that happening again this season.

Little League International recently announced the cancellation of all regional tournaments and the World Series due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning there will be no repeat of last summer’s impressive run.

“It’s a little bit sad but completely understandable when you look at all the planning and travel needed to make those tournaments happen,” said Moose Jaw Little League president Tony Dreger, who was also the All-Stars head coach.

But the cancellation came with a caveat – if local leagues can put something together during the summer months on their own while following government guidelines and safety procedures, it would be a-okay.

With the province currently in the first phase of Re-Open Saskatchewan and things looking positive on the recovery front outside of the northern regions, it’s a possibility that by mid-summer teams could be back on the diamond.

“We had a meeting over Zoom last Friday and the board decided there’s no sense in cancelling right now,” Dreger said. “We have hope, since it’s still early May. We won’t have a spring league but if Premier Moe opens up Phase 4 in late July or August or September and the government allows us to do something with the kids, we want to have something.”

The game won’t be quite the same, though.

“As we’re meeting, we’re trying to figure out how we can play the game differently in order to stay safe,” Dreger said. “Our social distancing, having the right amount of people, tweaks that we can make to have it as safe as possible.”

The idea is to be ready when the go-ahead finally comes, whenever that may be – and especially if there’s a late summer opening, a quick start will almost certainly be needed.

“But we’re not forging ahead without listening to what the government has to say,” Dreger was quick to add. “If we’re allowed to get that far in the summer time, we’re just trying to get a little bit ahead of the curve so we’re prepared and they’re prepared for what baseball can do… So we’re kind of excited and hopeful for that, just holding out some hope rather than cancelling it all.”

Registration is closed for Little League right now, and those who would like refunds will receive them. But if and when baseball is back, the plan is to open registration again in order to give everyone who wants a chance to get outside and on the field a chance to do just that.

“If we open up the season, we’ll open registration, too, because we feel we’ll have the opportunity to get more kids who were into lacrosse or flag football, we might get new registrants just because kids want something to do,” Dreger said. “If we can do something, I think our numbers will be really strong.

“We have lots of time, we’ll have to make some decisions in June and if nothing comes from the government in late July, we’ll have to make some tough decisions,” he added. “But right now, we don’t need to. So we’ll see how it goes.”

For the latest updates on Moose Jaw Little League and COVID-19, be sure to check their website or catch them on Facebook.

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