Softball season still in the works for summer

“If we can do something, we’re going to do something”

by Than Acuff

Yet another local tradition, softball, may suffer due to the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. All is not lost yet though, as the Crested Butte town softball league has plans in place to get back into action whenever and however possible.

Softball in Crested Butte is one of the longest running Parks and Recreation programs and brings out the best, and sometimes the worst, in people. Yet, it offers a reprieve from the grind of work three evenings a week, where people can get out and run around in the grass while downing adult beverages and socializing.

But, with the outbreak of COVID-19 came a question about whether or not the season would even happen. Fortunately, Crested Butte recreation supervisor Joey Carpenter has been working diligently to try to save the softball season, no matter what.

“I’m not going to let this die,” says Carpenter.

Carpenter has a plan in place that allows for some flexibility to adapt to how the county decides to proceed with COVID protocols, all in an effort to avoid complete cancellation of the season.

If county regulations prevent something such as a softball game from happening, Carpenter has a buffer in place to accommodate any delays, and still keep a full regular season in place but curtail the post-season.

“I have laid out a plan that pushes the entire program back up to five weeks,” explains Carpenter. “This would allow for a full regular season, giving each team the most number of games possible. Each successive week that is delayed from our normal start would eliminate one round of playoffs.”

If the start of the season is delayed as many as five weeks, the post-season could be cut down to a single day, single-elimination three-team tournament for each of the two leagues.

The softball season was slated to start the first week of June but, as of Monday, May 11, Carpenter expects the season to already be pushed back a minimum of a week to June 8.

“It’s highly unlikely we will start on June 1,” says Carpenter.

The biggest hang-up is group size and social distancing.

“The reality, for at least the beginning of the season, is that we’re not going to allow spectators,” adds Carpenter.

He adds that the turnover between games is the most likely point when group size could exceed the county limit for public gatherings, even if the limit reaches 50 people. As a result, Carpenter has a litany of other ideas in mind.

Typically, there are two games on the fields in town Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Carpenter may tweak that to avoid two teams, and their fans, showing up to a field to warm up while two other teams are playing.

“One plan is to have one game on each field each evening,” says Carpenter.

He’s also mulling over the idea of introducing 16-inch softball. It uses a larger, softer ball and teams can play with seven people in the field rather than 10. Or, if the season continues to get pushed back past the five-week pre-determined buffer, he may introduce a shorter, locals-only tournament-style season played over a couple of weeks.

“If we can do something, we’re going to do something,” says Carpenter.

Another hang-up is Parks and Recreation staffing. With a hiring freeze currently in place, there may be no one to tend to the fields. At which point, Carpenter may have to call on the players themselves to assist on a volunteer basis with field upkeep.

“That definitely has a substantive impact on the season,” says Carpenter. “We’re going to have to come up with some creative options.”

There is a Parks and Recreation industry sub-group meeting on Friday, May 15, during which plans for all programs and facilities will be discussed, including softball.

“I’m going to advocate for doing something instead of nixing the whole thing,” says Carpenter. “I’ll just hope for the best and see what happens.”

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