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Baseball season almost set to begin

Despite some confusion, Baseball Oshawa President Ken Babcock expects the season to begin today, Wednesday, July 29.

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

With negotiations still ongoing, Baseball Oshawa President Ken Babcock says he expects play to begin today (July 29) despite some snags along the way.

According to Babcock, while the league has gone out of its way to accommodate social distancing, one public health request has stood out as too difficult.

“We’re surprised by some of the requirements approved by the provincial government, and provincial public health,” says Babcock.

One such requirement is finding a way around tagging in order to avoid “prolonged contact.”

Babcock says if this issue wasn’t fixed, there wouldn’t be any baseball.

“It talks about the issue of ‘prolonged contact,’ where social distancing can’t occur in your sport,” he explains.

He notes while there may be physical contact “from time-to-time” due to a fielder tagging a runner, it’s been decided there will be no leadoffs in baseball for leagues that are 18 and younger.

“That’s an attempt to prevent space issues around the bases with pickoff plays,” he says. “But what they’ve asked for totally out of the blue is ‘Please also provide the current document from your sport governing body, including references to the pages where it speaks to the sport modifications to eliminate physical contact between players. For example, in baseball, has tagging base runners been eliminated? Where is this addressed in the Baseball Ontario documents, and could you comment further?’”

With a laugh, Babcock says tagging can’t be eliminated from baseball. “That’s baseball,” he says.

Babcock says they’ve submitted their approach to avoiding physical contact as much as possible, but admits the league is “scrambling.”

“It’s such an urgent thing to get in. Now we have to provide more information – which is fine, we’re willing to do this, we’ve been doing it since May.”

He explains the problem ultimately comes down to the league not yet receiving approval to play.

“It’s not about safety, and disregarding safety. It’s about making sure we do follow all of the safety guidelines, which we have been,” he says.

Leagues are also required to divide into groups of three, allowing for competition to only be played between three teams.

“We have to divide our leagues into three teams for competition play,” explains Babcock. “There’s no outside league competition so you can’t travel to another league to play. So you can’t play in Toronto, you can only play in our league, and so on.”

Babcock says Oshawa will be placed in a pod with the Pickering Prospects and Whitby Chiefs in the elite league. The rep and house league teams are placed in pods of three with a variety of teams.

While they’ve accomplished that requirement, the rules surrounding tagging have left Babcock, Baseball Oshawa, and many others across the province confused.

However, while the organization is struggling to meet the requirements to go back to league play, Babcock says the players who have been on the diamond are happy to be there.

“It’s so nice to see smiling faces back on the diamond. It’s so nice to see kids doing something they love. The coaches have been doing a great job,” he says.

However, Babcock says they want to play games, and now they need some help when it comes to tagging players.

“We’ve submitted our opinion on this, and we’re waiting to hear back. Hopefully we’ll hear back in the next couple of days, then we can proceed and start July 29,” says Babcock.

At the moment, Babcock says both house and rep leagues are scheduled to start on July 29.

However, Babcock tells The Oshawa Express he is currently negotiating final details with the city.

He says he currently expects baseball to begin today, but was unable to confirm before The Express went to press.