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USSSA head says it’s time to get ready to play again

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Dana Gilmer has been a director of the United States Specialty Sports Association for baseball and softball in New Mexico for 30 years, and of course, has never seen a season like this.

In addition to the myriad cancellations and loads of money lost, Gilmer has been gripped by the emotional damage resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

He said he has received over 200 emails from parents of youth baseball and softball players who have children struggling without their sport and without their friends/teammates.

Gilmer said one of the players, as young as 10, has not been eating or sleeping much and is “hurting himself.”

“It just pulls on your heart,” said Gilmer, who is confident that youth baseball and softball players should begin practicing now because he believes it’s safe – and even though New Mexico doesn’t, five surrounding states have clearance to play, including Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona and Utah.

Gilmer advocated for youth baseball and softball to start team practices immediately at a meeting that took place Monday and included New Mexico Lt. Gov. Howie Morales. Gilmer wants games to begin July 1.

The meeting was at New Mexico State, where Morales, Gilmer and a few other USSSA representatives wore masks. New Mexico Activities Association associate director Dusty Young attended the meeting via Zoom.

Sally Marquez, the executive director of the NMAA, said Young’s presence was in support of Morales and the hope to “present a united front,” as the NMAA is also wanting what is best for USSSA.

Morales relayed the messages and the USSSA presentations to Thursday’s session at the Capitol in Santa Fe.

“I know that there was discussion about possibly as early as this Saturday that people can return to the fields (for baseball and softball). I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Morales said. “I think that any discussion with different entities, it’s been a process, and we’re hoping that we can have a time line for everybody and not rushing into it too quickly.”

While Gilmer is pushing for USSSA to begin now, Morales wants a unified approach and create a time line for all the sports to return to play, including adult athletic leagues.

“We have to make sure we present the plans where it’s not one organization that gets the green light but as a whole, all the organizations in the state and different amateur athletics,” said Morales, who played USSSA adult softball and has a young daughter who competes on a team in Silver City. “As a state the goal is to have everyone working toward the same direction.”

Morales said he has frequent communication with NMAA officials. He said meeting with USSSA on Monday was helpful. He said Friday he will have “more of an in-depth meeting” with the Governor’s staff and NMAA officials.

“It was just great,” Morales said of Monday’s meeting. “Any time you can have communication and all points of view expressed is always helpful, especially during a time when there is so much information that is put out there.

“I think the organizations that presented did a wonderful job to help formulate showing similarities and consistencies and different guidelines and how we can incorporate and bring that together as a whole for New Mexico, that’s going to be something that’s unique. I think we can get to the point where we are going to have consistency, technology and above all safety for recreational playing.”

As many as 34 New Mexico USSSA teams have traveled out of state to compete, Gilmer said. Morales said he would like for New Mexico teams to refrain from travel and once games restart in New Mexico, that no out-of-state teams come to play in New Mexico.

The loss of USSSA in New Mexico also means a loss financially. USSSA baseball, fast-pitch softball and slow-pitch softball for the adults and the youth had an economic impact in New Mexico of $114 million in 2019, Gilmer said.

“We already had more events scheduled and I know my numbers were up about 12% in the three tournaments that I had canceled,” he said. “I was distraught at first. But I get it. It made sense. We didn’t know anything about this. Now we know a lot more. … I think we have smart doctors and politicians in New Mexico. I don’t agree with everything they do. But if the five surrounding states’ doctors and politicians can put together a protocol to get these kids and the adults back on the field, why can’t we?”

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