The area ball diamonds are eerily empty and silent.
This is the time that children are practicing for the upcoming spring and and summer season but the pandemic lockdown as put a temporary halt to this and the fields are not being used.
However, local organizations are still holding out hope a season can be salvaged.
“Unless told otherwise, yes,” said Tim Niebel, president of the Bulldog Youth Athletic Association (BYAA), “Kids are signed up already so we are just waiting for direction from the school.Right now we realize parents and kids want to get out and do stuff and so we are going to wait until we absolutely can’t. We are going to follow all the guidelines.”
Delphos Baseball and Softball Association president Eric Kerner said they are also proceeding as if the season was going to happen.
“At this point we are operating as though we are going to play baseball and softball at some point and time this summer,” Kerner said. “How soon that is is very much dependent on the governor’s direction but we are pushing forward and we are not canceling anything at this point. We are going to go forward as long as we are allowed to.”
On the Wapakoneta Recreation Inc. Facebook page it states they have no intention of canceling either and are encouraging to have individuals continue to register for the season.
“Our deadline was March 31st but I posted on our Facebook page to ignore the deadline as we knew we were going to be delayed,” said Richard Metz of Wapakoneta Recreation Inc. “We can’t reach everyone though. We traditionally accept registrations even after the season starts. We don’t like to turn people away even if it does cause a huge headache.”
With the uncertainty of the schedule Wapakoneta and Elida have seen a decrease in the number of those registering.
“We have seen a decrease because just for the fact that people are unsure, and they don’t want to register their kids and pay the $35 fee if they are thinking they are not going to have a season,” Niebel said. “I think that is driving it. I don’t think it is a matter of parents, or kids for that matter, worried about the virus as much is it is they don’t think we are going to have it.”
Niebel added that they just concluded their registration period and they are down approximately 20 percent overall. This year the BYAA did all of its registration online for the first time, and he said that might have also contributed to the decrease in numbers.
In the past the BYAA has had registration at the schools but an alternate location had to be found because of the shutdown. It was moved to Happy Daz in the lobby but two days prior to the event, the doors were closed and the BYAA had to go with 100 percent online registration.
“In talking with parents, we have one or two parents ask for refunds right away but most everyone wants to wait and see what happens,” said Niebel, who reiterates that everyone will receive a refund if the season is a no go.
Metz reported 219 individuals signed up with 23 of those on sponsorship, meaning they could not pay or have more than two kids paying and the families are not charged extra.
In the BYAA, Niebel said there are 48 individuals signed up for track and that is down about 25 percent. Softball has 65 registered and 69 for baseball and another 36 for T-ball.
In Delphos, Kerner said because they had a registration in late February and early March prior to much of the shutdown, that their numbers have remained about the same.
“We have had one or two families that were concerned and wanted their child withdrawn from the program but we have not had a lot of that,” Kerner said. “We have tried to stay as transparent as we can and let people know what we are doing and what is happening, and I suspect there are more that are taking that approach but at this point only one or two have reached out to be removed and refunded their fees.”
Niebel said with baseball and softball the BYAA is willing to go deep into the summer to get games in.
Baseball and softball seasons are scheduled to start May 18 and that is probably not expected to happen. Practices should have already commenced at this point, and they traditionally have had a five week practice period.
The first track meet was slated for the first week of May.
“We have a flexibility with when we start,” Niebel said. “We have a little less flexibility with track.”
Niebel added once they hear from the Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine they will have a better understanding of when and if they can start the respective seasons.
Kerner said the same holds true in Delphos where technically the start dates have been pushed back because they would have already been practicing with some of the levels and games scheduled to begin in early May.
“It will get pushed back at some point if we are allowed to play,” Kerner said. “it won’t be the normal timeline for the season. We haven’t exactly figured out what that timeline is looking like. Our season starts in the early part of May and it is done by right around the Fourth of July. We have typically done that for family vacations not to be interrupted. We feel like we could back it later into July to make up for the time missed out. That is all depending on what we can do and when.”
Financially most of these boards said a shutdown of the season impacts the bottom line but they will not take a major hit.
“It really doesn’t affect it that much,” Niebel said. “Yes we are down 20 percent but we are also down 20 percent in expenditures so it really is not that big a deal. It is not killing us financially.”
Kerner said they do rely on sponsorships and they have not gone through all the sponsorship discussion and is uncertain what financial hit the association is going to incur.
“I would anticipate it would be down a little bit but I am not aware on any major impact at this point that I am aware of but I do anticipate it,” Kerner said.