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Why not get outside

Editor’s Note - This is part two of Sen. Pat Toomey’s roundtable about bringing back Little League baseball and softball.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on Health Care, convened a virtual roundtable about youth baseball and softball leagues safely resuming play.

The event took place on Thursday, May 21, and the public was invited to watch on YouTube. The roughly hourlong discussion can still be viewed on Sen. Toomey’s YouTube page.

Major League Baseball’s Baseball and Softball Development Executive Vice President, and former Los Angeles Angels General Manager, Tony Reagins joined the conversation as did softball superstar Jennie Finch, Little League President Stephen Keener, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a physician and public health expert, and perhaps the greatest shortstop in Philadelphia Phillies history, Jimmy Rollins.

Finch brought up a key factor when any sport starts again, be it in the near future or further down the road - apprehension among parents. For Finch, there was no one more worried about safety than her and her family. All three of her kids are involved in sports and she said it’s been really hard to see them isolated.

Practice started a few weeks ago for her kids.

“We were the only parents who were apprehensive. They took a poll and we were the only ones not sure about it,” she said.

While Finch feels better about the whole situation at this point, she suggested starting simple and small, saying teams of any sport should start local and maybe not travel for tournaments.

“I see the values that transcend way beyond the playing field with teamwork, leadership and sacrifice. It’s been really hard to see them isolated,” Finch said. “We’re in a more rural area where they can get outside and I couldn’t imagine not doing those things.

“Isolation is not good for our sole, especially our young people.”

Keener was very disappointed to see the Little League World Series canceled this year, but it’s an event that brings people from all over the world and it just couldn’t be done. It was a devastating blow to the class of 12-year-olds who missed out, as well as the economic impact to Williamsport.

For any parent who is worried, or even concerned, littleleague.org has protocols for parents to view online.

“The pandemic has changed lives of young people around the world and potentially impacted a generation for many years to come,” Reagins said. “It’s taken proms and graduations and economic capabilities of parents of families.

“It has reinforced importance of, and significance of, sport, especially baseball and softball. Young people want to play. They are clamoring for social interaction they had in school with their classmates. They have strong desire to have that emotion bonding you experience when on the diamond. They yearn for the opportunity to be with their friends on a daily basis.”

Dr. Bhattacharya stressed the outdoor transmission seems lower than the indoor setting.

“There’s a lot of evidence the virus spreads much better in indoor settings,” Bhattacharya said. “The evidence is growing the virus is less effective spreading in the summer and there is less risk in the sunshine.

“The risk is much less lower [for kids]. It’s unlikely asymptomatic kids can spread to parents and grandparents.”

Rollins, who has three daughters, commented that indoors the virus has a better chance of spreading, so why not be outdoors.

“We don’t want to stop living our lives,” said Rollins. “We don’t want to stop having our normalities from existing. Right now, none of that exists. We watch the news, we hear about the negative things, but we should be focusing on what can do instead of what we can’t do, and working on getting back to what we can do and what we aren’t doing.”