Pittsburg’s JL Hutchinson League continues to adapt, giving players a chance to play amid COVID-19

The league has nearly completed its full schedule.

The JL Hutchinson League in Pittsburg is nearing the end of its season.

“We have always had like a 10-12 game regular season, and that’s actually what we’ve delivered,” says Brian Sullivan, president of the JL Hutchinson League.

Because of COVID-19, getting that season in has not always been smooth.

“There’s been plenty of doubts along the way,” Sullivan adds, “but we keep trucking along.”

The JL Hutchinson League made a few changes and issued guidelines before the season started in an effort to keep players and fans safe.

That includes moving the start date back to June 1st,  moving umpires from behind the plate to behind the pitcher’s mound, and eliminating extra innings.

The City of Pittsburg removed most bleachers from the fields, and the league encourages fans to bring their own chairs and space out appropriately.

“When I come up here around the fields…there’s groups of families, but everyone has their little spots. And as for the the bleachers…I haven’t received any negative feedback about that.”

“The kids have handled it flawlessly,” says Eric Schiefelbein, who is a coach for a 9-10 year old team in the league, “They understand COVID and everything that’s going on. They’ve been told many times to stay 6 feet apart. They’re aware of their surroundings just like the adults are.”

Recently the league has added markers in the dugout and down adjacent fence lines to show proper social distancing.

It leaves room for about 5 players in the dugout, while they ask the rest of the players to space out down the fence or be with their families when they’re not in the field.

“The concentration of players in the dugout continues to be an area of concern for us. Those markers are just little reminders of where we can have the players come out of the dugout and stand and be appropriately social distanced away from each other why they’re waiting to bat.”

“We’ve had great response from the community and the parents being open-minded and knowing that they’re not going to be separated all the time, but as much as possible,” Schiefelbein adds, “As coaches we try to make sure they keep their distance in the dugout, and on the field they’re obviously separated, but the safety of the kids comes first in this.”

With a little more than a week left in the season the JL Hutchinson League can see the finish line.

Sullivan says even with all of the changes, it was all worth it to give the kids a chance to get on the field this summer.

“I think most people in Pittsburg would rather be no place else than at these ball fields on a summer night,” Sullivan finishes, “So we really wanted to see it happen if at all possible.”

The final night of the season for the JL Hutchinson League will be July 16th.

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