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MOUNT PLEASANT — It was an ideal day for baseball at Shipyard Park.
With partly cloudy skies overhead and the Wando River serving as a backdrop, 15 groups from as distant as Illinois, Ohio and Mississippi descended upon the multi-field advanced for a weekend of youth journey baseball.
Dad and mom retreated to search out the few shady spots nonetheless out there across the ballparks, whereas siblings sat close by munching on hen fingers and french fries to cross the time between video games.
The same scene performed out in North Charleston the place groups from throughout South Carolina are competing in Dixie Majors and Pre-Majors state tournaments at Collins Park.
It was nearly unimaginable to inform from the massive gathering of individuals, many with out face masks, that the nation and the state are within the midst of a worldwide pandemic, and that Charleston is among the nation’s sizzling spots for brand new coronavirus circumstances.
Whereas highschool sports activities had been halted due to the virus, and journey groups in soccer, basketball, volleyball and 7-on-7 soccer have been sidelined, baseball has continued to thrive throughout the Southeast.
Underneath government orders issued by Gov. Henry McMaster two months in the past, youth baseball groups had been allowed to start practising on Could 31 and bought the OK to carry video games and tournaments starting June 15, so long as sure protocols are adopted.
Kenny Wilkinson, who coaches the North Charleston Dixie Majors workforce, mentioned security measures are in drive at Collins Park.
“Our seating capability is generally about 1,600 and now we have lower it right down to about 450 due to the social distancing necessities,” Wilkinson mentioned. “We solely need households sitting collectively. We wish them to put on masks. We’re following all the rules, all of the protocols that the governor has put out.”
The event at Shipyard Park was speculated to function as many as two dozen groups, however a number of golf equipment determined to choose out because of the virus.
“The crowds have been regular just about all summer time,” mentioned Jason Murray, the final supervisor at Shipyard Park.
The Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) considers baseball to be a “low danger” sport. In contrast to soccer and basketball, there’s little or no contact between members and social distancing is constructed into the sport.
Faculty of Charleston baseball coach Chad Holbrook was at Shipyard Park to look at his sons Cooper (16) and Reece (18), who’ve been collaborating in journey baseball all summer time. Each play highschool baseball at Hammond Faculty in Columbia however noticed their season worn out by COVID-19.
“Baseball is essential to Cooper and Reece,” Holbrook mentioned. “They needed to shelter in place for 2 months and missed their highschool seasons and that was robust on them to not play the sport they liked. Baseball is a superb outlet for them. In the event that they weren’t enjoying baseball, they’d most likely be on the seashore or on the lake hanging out with the identical pals, so I don’t see a giant distinction.”
Reece, who has verbally dedicated to play on the College of North Carolina, is a member of the distinguished Canes U17 nationwide workforce and has traveled to North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama for tournaments this summer time. Reese was identified with acute lymphoblastic leukemia as a younger youngster however has been most cancers free for years.
“Reece goes to top-of-the-line pediatric oncologists within the nation and he needs Reece to get on the market and play baseball and do his factor,” Holbrook mentioned. “That really gave me consolation to know that I’m doing the suitable factor. Let your child be a child and let him go on the market and be along with his pals.”
Hogan Garner, a rising sophomore at James Island Constitution Faculty, performs for the native Diamond Devils U17 workforce.
“I’m not apprehensive in regards to the virus,” mentioned Garner, 16, who has verbally dedicated to play for Clemson. “I missed enjoying. We missed nearly the complete highschool season and I simply needed to get again on the sphere.”
Garner’s father, Jerry, admits that he was a little bit extra apprehensive than his son about enjoying this summer time.
“We’re clearly involved in regards to the virus, however we felt just like the dangers had been price it once we noticed the precautions the Diamond Devils had been taking to maintain everybody secure,” Jerry Garner mentioned. “They’re attempting to do as a lot as they will to maintain everybody secure. So, can we take into consideration the virus, positive. However while you’ve bought a hard-headed 16-year-old son that claims he’s enjoying, I suppose we’re enjoying.”
The Diamond Devils have been one of many premier journey baseball groups within the Lowcountry for almost three many years with alumni which have gone on to play within the Main Leagues. John Rhodes, founding father of the Diamond Devils program, mentioned the membership made a aware determination to play in tournaments nearer to residence this summer time.
“With all the pieces that is occurring and each state taking a distinct method, I didn’t really feel comfy going out of state until I knew what the principles had been going to be,” Rhodes mentioned. “If I didn’t really feel comfy, I felt just like the mother and father weren’t going to really feel comfy. The children most likely can be like, no matter, they might play wherever.”
The Diamond Devils often play in tournaments in Nashville, Tenn., and Cincinnati, Ohio, every summmer. They opted out of these occasions this yr, however will journey to Atlanta for a event.
“The NCAA has shut down all of the (faculty) coaches with the ability to exit, so why do you wish to journey to Nashville and be seen by no person. You may keep right here and be seen by no person and save some huge cash.”
Rhodes mentioned he has 167 gamers on almost a dozen groups this summer time. Solely two gamers determined to not play.
With coronavirus circumstances spiking throughout the state, Rhodes, like many related to journey baseball, is simply grateful to in a position to spend a day on the ballpark.
“We really feel very lucky to be enjoying,” Rhodes mentioned. “To be trustworthy, I’m a little bit surprised that we’re enjoying.”