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Little League isn’t giving up on playing the season

In this 2015 photo, Jeremiah Mares was waiting to begin practice with his Paradise Hills All-Star team. Coronavirus concerns are delaying the 2020 season. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal File)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Anthony Fasulo, just as many involved with Little League in New Mexico, is confident there will be a season this year despite the threat of the coronavirus outbreak that has caused all local youth sports to shut down.

Fasulo, the District 5 administrator, is operating the best he can with the plan that there will still be games.

International Little League has suspended all league activities through May 11, as a recommendation, according to its website.

Leagues in New Mexico remain hopeful that they will return to baseball fields soon.

“I’m very confident we will have a season,” Fasulo said on Wednesday.

District 5 consists of nine leagues in areas including Northeast Heights, Cedar Crest, Edgewood, Moriarity and Atrisco Valley.

Some leagues had Opening Day scheduled for this past Saturday, others this upcoming Saturday, and some as late as April 18 – and they are hoping those will be postponed rather than canceled.

“I still think there will be an Opening Day,” Fasulo said. “Maybe after May 16. Games could start before Opening Day and then after some games we can have Opening Day. That’s my hope.”

Some leagues were forming teams and had begun practices.

“Most people are taking it in stride,” Fasulo said. “We’ve had a few ask for refunds. It’s tough for some leagues because they are still responsible to pay for maintaining fields, even though there is no revenue. That has been a challenge. It’s not a huge issue today. If there is no season, that would be very difficult.”

The cost per player averages $85-$90 for the season, Fasulo said.

Aaron Ortiz, the Santa Fe Little League president, expressed disappointment at the suspension of all league activities.

Two years ago, the league struggled with about 140 kids registered. This year, through marketing and connecting with other community groups, Santa Fe Little League had 340 young baseball players registered, Ortiz said.

“We’ve told our parents, the season could start sooner than May 11 or it could start later,” Oritz said. “We’re hoping that it gets better. It’s not up to us. It’s up to local and state officials. The safety of our players, families and volunteers is first and foremost before we decide to go through with the season.”

Ortiz and Fasulo encouraged players to practice at home, in the backyard. Fasulo said District 5 has the option to receive training from Big Al Baseball, which offers training trips online.

Ortiz had been excited for a coaching clinic directed by University of New Mexico baseball coach Ray Birmingham that was scheduled for this coming Monday. About 100-150 coaches were expected to attend the clinic. Ortiz is hoping it can be rescheduled after restrictions are lifted.

Birmingham recently saw his team’s season end because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Baseball will not go away for the kids,” Birmingham said. “People probably won’t be able to afford the training they had before. But that’s OK. There were times when those things didn’t exist. All those things will be OK.”

After New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a stay-at-home order on Monday, Birmingham advised young baseball players to continue to practice at home.

“Play wall ball,” he said. “Hit the ball off the tee and hit it into a net. Do the little things and respect social distancing right now. If you happen to have a brother, go in the backyard. But don’t go anywhere. Let’s just get this settled down fast.”

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