SPORTS

Youth sports return signals progress

Posted 4/22/21

A handful of local youth baseball and softball leagues opened this past weekend and more will be getting started in the next couple weeks. I remember last season around this time when Little League baseball and other youth leagues were put on hold with

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SPORTS

Youth sports return signals progress

Posted

A handful of local youth baseball and softball leagues opened this past weekend and more will be getting started in the next couple weeks.

I remember last season around this time when Little League baseball and other youth leagues were put on hold with no real start date. Something felt off about it, it just felt like something was missing to the spring season.

Most leagues were able to get back out there in June and enjoy a summer season. It was a relief and a nice return to normalcy during a time when things were just so uncertain regarding the pandemic.

Although local programs were able to get back out there, the summer continued to have a different feel as the All-Star tournaments were put on hold. One of the best American sports traditions was wiped away for a year as kids were stuck playing in their own home towns. Something is better than nothing and we were all grateful to be out there at all, but once again, it was different.

We’ll see how things shake out this spring and summer, but it is nice to welcome the kids back in April again and as far as I know, there will be some form of All-Star play this summer.

Not having the tournaments last summer was one of the old cliche feelings of not knowing what you had until it was gone.

I’ve always enjoyed the tournaments. It’s always a fun environment and usually a laid back one … as most things are during the summer months. It’s fun watching kids travel from all over the state to represent their communities and see which is the top dog. It’s also surreal to see local team make it to the World Series. One minute you’re covering them down the street, the next, ESPN is calling their game.

Not to go overboard with the importance of baseball and softball, but these travel tournaments are so important and special to the kids. Youth sports in general build character and help socialize them, but to give them an opportunity to see other areas of the state, country and to interact with those people as well, it’s a great tradition.

So, as always, embrace and celebrate local youth leagues and catch a game or two even if you don’t have relatives participating. Especially now that they’re back and things will closer resemble the norm, it should be a fun few months. Last Friday, there was an unexpected snowstorm that threw a wrench into the high school sports schedule. Between the evening games being postponed and even some of the early Saturday games, things were all out of whack.

Then to compound those weather issues, there were unfortunately some COVID-related issues as well. Bishop Hendricken’s game against rival La Salle was canceled, as was Pilgrim’s game against Middletown. The Cranston East and West volleyball game was also called off.

My question now becomes, how will these cancellations impact the playoff format and whatnot?

Obviously, if Hendricken goes 4-0 this season then it would be pretty tough to deny them a playoff spot, that won’t happen. But for those teams that are closer to the mean that lose out on games, what is going to happen?

Either way, it’ll be based on winning percentage which is fair, I don’t have any issue with it, but I’m sure some others may. Who knows? I’m just thinking out loud.

As for Cranston West, who’s season was canceled since they are in COVID protocol, what a tough blow.

The Falcons were having a solid season and looked like they’d have a chance to compete in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the timing of this was about as bad as it could be and the girls won’t have that opportunity. Sure, it is great that they got to play for as long as they did, but to have things cut short is disappointing and once again, a sobering reminder that we still have some work to do to return to total normalcy.

Speaking of which, the normal spring sports season is set to begin next week and the gold season teed off on Monday.

Like Little League, it is great to see the spring athletes return to the field after missing the entire 2020 season.

I won’t dive back into the importance of giving these kids a season, I’ve done that enough in the past year. I will approach this from another angle this time.

The unknown.

For some of our teams, especially those that were toward the top in 2019, how is 2021 going to look? How will those freshmen that are now juniors feel? The sophomores that are now seniors?

How will rosters shake out now that teams will essentially be needing to make up for two graduating classes? How will those middle schoolers adapt as sophomores?

It’s just a thought. Not that I would prefer to have it this way, but it is an intriguing idea. Will teams all be set back a bit or will they be ready to hit the ground running? Will the seniors be ready to lead teams considering the last time they hit the field they still the new guys? How well will coaches know what they have? What have the kids done to prepare? So many questions to be answered.

I was at the Pilgrim-Toll Gate gold match at Valley Country Club on Monday afternoon. After such a lousy weekend of weather, it was nice to rebound to a 65-degree, sunny day.

As I was making my way around the greens, enjoying the weather, it all hit me … spring is finally here, and we have so much to look forward to in the coming months.

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Joe Gabriele

Let's not forget CLCF Soccer, who just kicked off its Spring 2021 season with more than 600 kids ages 6 through 17! Check out Saturday mornings up at Hope Road's Briggs Field....

Friday, April 23