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Youth, club sports seek guidance from Morales on possible return

Representatives from youth and adult baseball and softball organizations in New Mexico want approval to begin practicing and competing within the state, or at the very least be treated the same as the state’s high school programs.

The representatives voiced their concerns and asked New Mexico Lt. Gov. Howie Morales questions during a virtual meeting that lasted roughly an hour on Tuesday.

Dana Gilmer, a longtime director of the United States Specialty Sports Association for baseball and softball in New Mexico, asked Morales if there could be a date set for the diamond sports to begin. The New Mexico Activities Association, which governs high school sports in the state, voted on Monday to have football, volleyball and cross country start on Feb. 22.

Morales said he couldn’t provide a start date for club baseball and softball and other club sports and clarified that the Public Education Department or the state has not approved that Feb. 22 date for the NMAA. The NMAA voted that as a target date to start.

The NMAA and club sports, including the diamond sports that are affiliated with groups such as Little League and USSSA, will be subject to final approval from the state and/or any changes to the current guidelines in the COVID-Safe practices that have disallowed youth club sports practicing in large groups or competing.

Morales said he will speak to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday about starting “activity” for the club sports.

“NMAA has voted that Feb. 22 can be a go date, but there still hasn’t been the final approval from the state, and I think that has been the concern,” Morales said during the Zoom meeting. “(The Feb. 22 start date) hasn’t been finalized. I’m pretty confident that it could.”

Morales asked the representatives to form a proposal for a return to play and present it during another Zoom meeting next week. Gilmer and the representatives seem already prepared to do so, having wanted for several months to return.

Gilmer prefers that baseball and softball not be included with other club sports, mainly because he believes the diamond sports are especially safe because they are outdoors and mostly non-contact.

Still they must be careful for how much they request. They asked Morales if out-of-state teams could compete again in New Mexico.

“I’m not optimistic that it could happen,” said Morales, who played USSSA adult softball and has a young daughter who is on a team in Silver City. “I know how important that is, especially when you have El Paso, Colorado, Arizona teams that are nearby. I think right now the battle is to move forward so that we can get our kids in New Mexico participating. I don’t see that as immediate to get out of state (teams) to come in. As much as I want to see it happen, I just don’t see it happening. I’d hate to jump in and request everything as what was normal and used to and lose the whole steps forward.”

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